December 04, 2009

Be afraid...

I would love to respond to your article, but can't find a way to link to it.

Oher is making millions now, I doubt he is complaining about his fortunate run in with the the "white family", nor does racism come to mind when he thinks of them. But, again, anytime someone white does something for someone black, it's portrayed as offensive. Take a look in the foster system - BLACK PEOPLE do not adopt, they do not foster, they do NOTHING. So when a white person does something, suddenly it's criticized and they can do no wrong. I'm so sick of black people (assuming you are black) boohooing about this shit. Step up and take in some black kids, then you can complain about how the white people are doing it wrong.

By the way, I am white, but my god kids are black, and many of my friends are black, and they have the same thoughts I do in this regard. Get a life.

Shellie Sager

So - a few things. I have no idea what Oher is thinking about and, unlike Ms. Sager, would not presume to do so. I would not presume that racism doesn't cross Oher's mind any more than I would presume that it does because I don't know Oher. I also don't know that he sees millions of dollars in a profession that leaves 80% of its players bankrupt within ten years of the ends of their careers (while shortening their lives in the process) is in his mind the pinnacle of existence as other venal materialists would. Maybe the Tuohys have set up a trust and a power of attorney over his affairs so that he can be protected from being his own man. I would love to see Hancock's sequel to this one in which Oher buys his freedom and links up an Underground Railroad from Baltimore to Tennessee to Mississippi. He can call it "The Mind Right."

Nor would I go so far as to say that Black people do NOTHING; that they don't adopt, foster, anything at all. I also wouldn't speak for imaginary Black friends saying that they think this is true as well. Unless you're Bill Cosby, in fact, I doubt you have the currency to make any generalizations about Black people or culture. The Blind Side, however, is quite awfully comfortable making generalizations about Black people and Black culture.

So - as representative of the mail and the reaction to The Blind Side review - some of it supportive but anonymous from filmmakers that don't want to cause trouble amongst their circle of friends - here's a little, disquieting, filthy reminder of the absolute ignorance and arrogance of the vast multitude of people in this our United States in 2009. Hand it to Shellie, though: most just tell me that I'm imagining it, she confirms that not only am I right about the film - she believes that the film is right about darkie.

Lawsy, lawsy.


Jefferson Robbins said...

Jesus shit the bed.

I've noticed a disquieting tendency, in the statements people are willing to make online and even in public, to speak on behalf of the masses of black Americans who, perhaps, are too blissed out by having a brother in the White House to speak for themselves. It's a new paternalism, the kind that says "We're postracial now, so why talk about race when a black man has finally been allowed to take high office?"

I saw an editorial in a local small paper the other day, signed by the publisher, that gave credit for the end of slavery and the establishment of black civil rights almost entirely to white, Christian men. Never mind Selma, or Sojourner Truth, or the three men buried in a levee outside Philadelphia, Mississippi -- one black, two Jewish.

And The Stranger in Seattle had this gem, as commenter "bobby digital" stitched up the Lakewood police murders in a neat little silk purse:

Shocking! A whole family of black people was complicit in the butcher of four honky cops!

Most black people don't care about raising their own children, much less taking care of anyone else. How can anyone who isn't living in some dishonest fantasyland not get that?

Brace your "community" for an upturn in police brutality.

Todd said...


Would be interested in your take on PRECIOUS. I haven't seen BLIND SIDE yet I'm curious just to see which is the more dangerous film. Also wonder if you've seen this article... which AO Scott compares the two films but doesn't come up with much. At least the issue is getting some ink.

Erin said...

Your review of Blind Side was amazing, Walter and this letter is the best accompaniment I can imagine.

I'm far more troubled by your affection for Antichrist.

Carl Walker said...

I managed to lose my comment on the other thread, which is just as well as it belongs here; I really wanted to thank you for this review as it expressed so elegantly the extreme distaste I've been feeling about this "film" ever since I saw the trailer in theaters (twice), not to mention when my "liberal graduate student" friend took offense on Facebook when I dared use the word "racism" with regards to the trailer. Sadly he has not risen to the bait of the review link I posted.

By the way, if Shellie is reading this, I am white too, and your perspective is typical and sad. Part of the problem, indeed.

MrJeffery said...

thanks for posting this misguided letter. i'm wary about the blind side b/c it looks super simplistic in its depictions of race and i think sandra bullock is one of our most limited performers.

Walter_Chaw said...

I think "affection" is strong for my affection for Antichrist. I doubt that anyone really likes the film - like for instance how I doubt that anyone really likes Dancer in the Dark or The Idiots - but I do admire it a great deal. I think that it's brilliant, and perfectly executed, and equal parts subtle and ham-handed. The film I liken it to the most in my mind, actually, is Godard's Alphaville as another example of a film that's really pretty impossible to enjoy - but endlessly fascinating to deconstruct.

I actually didn't go into much detail in the review for fear of turning it into a seminar that I'm not qualified to moderate, but I'd love to drag my old semiotics and critical theory professors to it somehow and listen to them go at it. It's kind of the extreme of one possibility for film to function as an educational tool. I'd teach this one in a graduate critical theory seminar - it's text.

But "affection?" I imagine it's the same affection that an entomologist feels for a really rare bug.

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed antichrist. sort of.

Dan said...

Just to ring the bell once more in support of your review: I also posted it immediately on my Facebook account and even sent it around to my undergraduate students who are just now being introduced to postcolonialist theory. The response was overwhelmingly favorable, although one colleague of mine thought the comparison with Triumph of the Will was perhaps too much credit to bestow upon what is clearly not only an ideologically atrocious one, but that is also very badly made.

I was saddened to see my half-brother speak out in favor of the film in response to my Facebook posting, stating that he and his family had "liked" the film, that its story was "true," that Oher plays football "not too far from here," and that "the reviewer has plenty of his own issues to work out." This kind of reaction seems to me rather typical of people who aren't necessarily idiots, but who are largely blind to the ideological workings of pop cultural narratives.

Thanks for fighting the good fight, Walter. We need more folks like you out there.

Jefferson Robbins said...

The Antichrist review is just what this film was begging for, from all that I've read about it. (I haven't seen it and it will never play within a hundred miles of where I live.) A film about love and death, vitality and corruption, male and female cries out for the medium of a critic versed in literary theory -- a hard find, especially when so many critics aren't even acquainted with literature.

Dan said...

Was Antichrist passed uncut in the US, as it was in the UK?

Alex Jackson said...

But "affection?" I imagine it's the same affection that an entomologist feels for a really rare bug.

Eek! I feel obligated to air out my objection to that statement. Art should be about more than signs and signifiers. Content, the bottom line so to speak, should be more important than style. The complexity of a text should have little bearing as to whether or not it's "great".

It kind of annoys me that Triumph of the Will can be dismissed merely on the grounds that it is "badly made".

But even though I have yet to see AntiChrist, I think I can surmise merely from the reviews that it has something going on a humanist level and it can inform our perspective toward ethics and theology and that it may have some special very specified meaning to me as a husband and perhaps as somebody who works in the social services field.

Of course, Inglourious Basterds worries me a lot more. That film really puts it out on the table. Unlike Triumph of the Will it's ideologically atrocious (or maybe just ideologically stupid) but incredibly well-made. Well-made on the level of semiotics and critical theory, not just pretty pictures put together in a pretty way. That film really challenges the validity of the school of structuralism.

Also, I don't think I could bear to watch The Blind Side. The whole tough-talking white woman adopting a large black teenager with learning disabilities and an anger problem makes me profoundly uncomfortable in a way that a bloody hand-job simply never could.

Actually, at first I thought the problem was that I didn't want to confront my own paternalistic attitudes; now I'm thinking that the problem may be that the movie truly sounds horrible and the criticism designating it as such is beginning to sound awfully self-satisfied.

Sounds like it's a good subject to make a movie about, only it needs a greater sense of irony, a more ruthless sense of cynicism, and more of a questioning intelligence. I would like to know if questions of right and wrong or what constitutes the "good life" are absolute or relative and if cultural pluralism is, in itself, a form of cultural imperialism.

That last question in particular has risen up in real life when we took black Muslim kids to an art museum. They objected to the religious art saying that it was sacreligious and it wouldn't have been made otherwise. Is that a cultural difference or are they simply assuming that everybody thinks they way they do?

If your ethical stance is that you are going to do what's right for you and fuck everyone else, is that an ethical stance that necessarily needs to be honored and respected?

Sigh. I'm afraid I'm not smart enough to not ramble on about this.

Nate said... I doubt that anyone really likes Dancer in the Dark...

I really, truly love Dancer in the Dark. I've only watched it twice in ten years because it's emotionally devastating and leaves me a heaping mess. But I most definitely like it. I generally like movies that assault me, hence my love for von Trier in general.

I haven't seen Antichrist yet, which is ridiculous because it was playing at a theater walking distance from my house for four weeks. But I'm a little scared of his movies and it sometimes takes me months to work up the nerve to go see them.

As for The Blind Side, barf. Your review is exactly what I thought of the preview when I first saw it. I had to subtly convince my family over Thanksgiving that, no, I won't be patronizing that film.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I correct my prior statement - not ALL black people do nothing. I was angry when I wrote my post and I apologize for that one. However, when I was going through the adoption process with LA County Children Services and attending adoption fairs with predominately black children for adoption, I can tell you that out of 100 adults there, MAYBE four were black. So where were they? It's a black child adoption fair (literally, it was the "Our Heritage" event) and only white people show up to adopt them? Call any social worker in Los Angeles and this will be confirmed in a minute - FOR THE MOST PART... black people do not adopt. Spend one week working in the foster system, you might learn something.

And for the record, I do not think that the movie is a portrayal of all black people - of course not! I have many educated and some, very wealthy black friends - no, they are not imaginary. But the movie is not about people like them, it's about people like those in the movie - those that produce children who end up in the foster system. And by the way, there are plenty of white kids in the system that come from white trash parents in shitty neighborhoods too. It's a fact - loser people come in all colors, and pointing out a loser does not make you a racist - in this case it's about loser people who happen to be black, that don't take care of their families and produce children who end up in foster care. This is not racism, this is a fact. There is absolutely NOTHING racist about pointing out that SOME people are losers. This movie is not about honorable black people. If you can't recognize the difference, then you have a major problem. So, I will say that anyone that feels the movie is racist, clearly has no knowledge of children that come from foster care, nor have they ever visited a neighborHOOD like that in the movie. They exist. Racism and facts are two different things.

So, Walter, you are wrong about the movie. I am right about the people in the movie. Your drive to convince people that the portrayal is racist, and that everyone must see all black people this way, IS racist. Shellie