The 2007 hit “The Blind Slide” is considered an uplifting, feel-good film starring Sandra Bullock, one of Hollywood’s loveable and beloved Oscar winners. As the cultural current has changed over the years, the film is mired in controversy. Recently, troubling allegations have been uncovered behind the story that inspired the Oscar-nominated film, loosely based on the life of Michael Oher, his adoption story and later career highlights when he was drafted into the NFL.
But the real story may not be as brilliant as The Blind Slide makes it out to be. Oh now 37 filed a lawsuit earlier this week It details allegations that he was never legally adopted by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy (whom Bullock portrayed in the film). He claimed the Tuohys deceived him and benefited from his fictional life story depicted in The Blind Slide.
What is Oher’s story? Why is The Blind Side so controversial? And what do both sides claim? Salon breaks it all down:
Who is Michael Oher?
Oher is a retired NFL star who was drafted for the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. He eventually played for the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers. While playing for the Ravens, he won Super Bowl 47 and appeared in Super Bowl 50 as part of the Panthers’ starting lineup.
Not only is he a Super Bowl champion, but he was also one of the subjects of Michael Lewis’ book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. The book eventually became the Oscar-nominated film The Blind Slide.
Oher’s early life was full of adversity as his mother struggled with addiction issues and his father was involved in the justice system. During his youth, Oher repeatedly experienced phases of homelessness in foster families. His circumstances made it difficult for him to maintain a stable family life, but as a teenager he devoted himself to athletics: track and field, basketball and, of course, football. Eventually he was accepted into a private high school in Tennessee, where he met the Tuohys, his classmates’ parents. They took him in and reportedly became his legal guardians.
Since retiring from football, Oher has written three books and his most recent memoir, When Your Back’s Against the Wall: Fame, Football, and Lessons Learned through a Lifetime of Widrity, was released August 8.
What is the meaning of “The Blind Side”?
The Best Picture nominee is a dramatized version of Oher’s life, with Bullock and Tim McGraw playing the Tuohys. Bullock won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Leigh Anne. The film stars Michael Oher (played by Quinton Aaron) as a simple, gentle, low-IQ giant with no athletic ability – very different from his real-life counterpart. Michael is accepted into a private school, where the coach then draws his attention to playing for their soccer team. Leigh Anne Tuohy notices that Michael is homeless, takes him away and then begins coaching him and teaching him how to be a football player. The Blind Side garnered accolades and accolades, as well as becoming the highest-grossing football film and sports drama of all time at the domestic box office.
Despite its critical acclaim and popularity, The Blind Side has also been decried as a white savior film that relies on a white character’s racist narrative as a catalyst to help one or more people of color achieve something meaningful. In this case, it’s a rich Southern woman who transforms a poor, homeless black teenager into a superstar pro football player. The film is presented as a feel-good underdog sports drama, but its critics say the film serves as a vessel for whites benefiting from black pain and struggle.
Bullock has yet to comment as the lawsuit caused an uproar in the industry. But her co-star and Oher’s co-star, actor Quinton Aaron, has defended calls for Bullock’s Oscar return an interview with the New York Post.
What are the allegations against the Tuohys?
His story may have been the inspiration for The Blind Slide, but Oher now claims that the Tuohys, who allegedly adopted him when he was a high school student, never did and conspired against him to do business on their behalf. He also claims that the Tuohys used the conservatories to strike a deal that would pay their two children $225,000 for the film plus 2.5% of the film’s proceeds, which would mean they would get royalties with The Blind Side would have earned millions. The film grossed more than $300 million, which Oher claims he received nothing for a story “that would not have happened without him.”
The allegation also states that Oher only recently found out about the alleged conservatory work this year: “Michael Oher discovered this lie to his chagrin and embarrassment in February 2023 when he learned that the conservatory work he alleges had agreed to do so.” making him a member of the Tuohy family provided he had no family ties to the Tuohys.
The Tuohys still call Oher their adopted son and continue to use Oher’s connection to them to promote their foundation and Leigh Anne’s work as an author and motivational speaker.
How did the Tuohys react to the lawsuit?
Sean Tuohy said the Daily Memphian that he was baffled by Oher’s allegations, saying the Tuohys “didn’t make any money from the film” but only a portion of the proceeds from Michael Lewis’ book, which formed the basis of the film.
In a statement to People Magazinethe Tuohys’ attorney claimed that Oher threatened the family and said he would spread a negative story about them to the press if they didn’t pay him $15 million, before filing the bombshell lawsuit alleging them over his adoption lied and made millions off his name and story.
The Tuohys’ attorney also claims Oher’s lawsuit is “a cynical attempt to garner attention in the middle of his latest book tour.”
Oher’s camp responded to the statement, saying they stand by Oher’s lawsuit: “We believe justice will be served in the courtroom and we hope to get there quickly.”
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