By Michael R. Shannon
Last week marked the debut of two movies featuring overweight black teenagers as the central character. Movie reviewers (a chronic incubator of "progressive" thinking) found one movie "important," "inspiring," "compelling," "transformative" and "a triumph." It won the Grand Jury & Audience awards at the Sundance Film Festival and received a 15-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival.
The other movie was described as "unremarkable," "undemanding," "superficial," "obvious" and "unsatisfying" with an overall failing grade of 57 percent at the Rotten Tomatoes web site.
From the following descriptions, can you guess which movie was the darling of the intellectual set and which movie resonates with Wal-Mart shoppers? (Warning mild to detailed plot spoilers to come.)
In Precious, a functionally illiterate, morbidly obese, black teenage girl is raped repeatedly by her father. One incestuous coupling produces an infant with Down syndrome. Precious lives at home with a cruel and physically abusive mother in a ghetto neighborhood. She is withdrawn, hates her appearance, uses fantasy as a coping mechanism and has no social skills.
A second pregnancy results in her being sent to an alternative school where a lesbian teacher and social worker combine to try and reach the girl hidden inside her shell. The movie ends with Precious, who is still the size of the Hindenburg, landing in a new government program and being informed that during one of his rapes her "father" has infected her with AIDS.
In 1987, the time period of the movie, this is a death sentence.
The Blind Side starts with Michael Oher functionally illiterate, living on the streets in a ghetto neighborhood, with a crack 'ho for a mother, eating discarded concession stand food, possessing only a single change of clothes, hidden in a shell, with no social skills.
So far what's not to like about The Blind Side? Sounds like the movie is well on the way to wild applause on the film festival circuit.
But then differences rear their ugly heads.
In The Blind Side an evangelical Christian white woman takes Michael into her home and into her family. He is given a scholarship to a prestigious Christian school and a private tutor - hired by his new family - brings his grades up. Michael starts to play football and earns a scholarship to a major university. He grows to love his adopted family and becomes a new person.
At the university, Michael achieves All-American football status, his grades put him on the Dean's List, he is drafted in the NFL's first round by the Baltimore Ravens and, judging from the pictures over the credits, he has slimmed down without resorting to fad diets.
In "elite opinion" circles a black person is allowed to indulge in many varieties of degraded behavior and exhibit any number of dangerous pathologies without causing so much as a raised eyebrow, but nothing keeps elite festival-attendee behinds in the seats like the hero relying on white people, the private sector or a Christian to change his life.
As the reviewer for the Village Voice hissed, "the (Blind Side) peddles the most insidious kind of racism, one in which whiteys are virtuous saviors, coming to the rescue of African-Americans who become superfluous in narratives that are supposed to be about them."
"Progressives" are much more comfortable with white people dragging black teenagers behind pickup trucks. It confuses them when Christians act like Christians.
Precious a feel-good movie for liberals because what miniscule progress the girl makes is facilitated by a lesbian teacher, a social worker and a halfway house. It's a trifecta for modern "progressives!"
"Progressives" watch Precious and pretend to empathize while still feeling superior. Because Precious does not ask the uncomfortable question of why aren't YOU doing more to help, because, as the New York Times says, "An unstated but self-evident moral of Precious, . is that government can provide not only a safety net, but also, in small and consequential ways, a lifeline."
So the viewer is personally off the hook, just keep voting for Gerry Connolly and stand by for Nirvana.
Christians see The Blind Side and feel inadequate because the movie asks Christians in the audience are you doing enough? And the answer is no, we are not doing enough. We need to do more. We need to do it now.
Christians and conservatives (not always one and the same) complain that Hollywood doesn't make good movies. But if Christians want Hollywood to make good movies, then Christians have to buy tickets to see the good movie Hollywood makes.
The Blind Side is that good movie. Unless you are a "progressive intellectual" you will enjoy it, but you will also wonder what can you do to make a difference?
You don't have to start a foundation, pass legislation or ride your unicycle across America to raise money. Just take the advice of Thomas a Kempis: "Do the duty nearest you."
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at email@example.com.