On the surface, the cinematic drama, The Blind Side (Hancock, 2009), tells the story of Michael Oher’s climb from meager indigence to professional football fame. The path he followed along his upward journey was long and arduous. Ultimately, his encounter and eventual life with the Touhy family, allowed stability, support, and encouragement into his upbringing. The Touhy’s enabled him to develop his own internal ambition and visualize his own successful future. The disparity between Michael’s social and cultural background and that of the Touhy family he became a member of, provided an intriguing backdrop to examine mood, personality, and behavioral themes in the context of the movie. In order to fully understand and objectively interpret Michael Oher’s character throughout the film, one must first begin by understanding the cause-and-effect relationship that composes Michael’s overall disposition. Upon the backdrop of social and cultural problems, and through difficult experiences during his childhood and formative years, a shade of negative environmental conditions was apparent early on in Michael’s life.
The depressing environmental conditions surrounding Michael from an early age had a huge influence on his overall mood and constantly dominated much of his melancholic emotional state. As Michael continued to endure his childhood, the compounding effect of his surroundings and discouragement was further engrained in his regular thought process and general personality traits. At the point in Michael’s life where The Blind Side begins, Michael’s personality, and the hardship that crafted his core-identity, have contributed largely to his overall outlook, attitude, and behavior. By understanding the sequential cause and effect of encounters over the course of Michael Oher’s life, it is possible to provide deeper analysis of him as an individual, as well as the evolution of his relationship with the Touhy family. Leigh Anne Touhy and her family first discovered Michael Oher as he crossed the street in front of their car on a cold rainy night. At that moment, the preceding lives and experiences of Michael and the Touhy family could not have been in greater contrast.
From an early age, negative influences and instability were present in Michael’s environment. In a rough Memphis, Tennessee neighborhood, Michael’s life began in poverty, surrounded by dilapidated buildings and crime. Similar to his dismal neighborhood, Michael’s situation at home also caused him great distress. Michael’s father was absent, and eventually died from an apparent suicide. In addition, his exposure to his mother’s drug addiction was unavoidable. When authorities forcibly removed him from this decayed domestic environment, he became separated from his brother and was left only to shuffle through numerous foster homes, eventually landing on a friend’s couch. Environmental influences on Michael Oher’s overall hopeless mood and emotional affect are undeniable. The perpetual negativity in his life contributed further to his emotional state and augmented his feelings of isolation, self-dependence, and insecurity.
Michael’s early isolation from his original family fostered his sense of self-dependence, which was imperative for daily survival. For example, Michael was resourceful enough to find temporary shelter at his friend Steven’s house and even found a way to launder the clothes on his back without spending any money. He relied only upon himself to provide basic elements of survival, and was typically forced to suffice without. Michael’s environment also led to heightened insecurities in almost all aspects of his life. His feelings of inadequacy and isolated lifestyle clearly surfaced when he began school at the Wingate Christian School. At his new school, he quickly learned, not only was he uncomfortable because of obvious social and cultural disparities on the surface, but his deficient academic abilities also separated him even further from his new surroundings.
When Leigh Anne Touhy decided to take Michael Oher in on a cold, rainy night, she did not fully comprehend the emotional disparity between Michael’s past and that of her family. As the Touhy’s warmed up to their new houseguest, and Michael became slightly more acclimated to his new environment, the Touhy’s began to realize the nuances of Michael’s personality had deep emotional roots, and were largely affected by his tough childhood. Leigh Anne did not immediately pry into Michael’s past. In her direct, yet caring, approach, Leigh Anne attempted to help Michael feel comfortable within the family structure. Initially, Michael was apprehensive about the positive emotional condition of the Touhy family. He did not know how to respond to the family’s warm and welcoming approach.
Until this point, many elements of Michael’s personality were formed by his own experiences. The warmth of the Touhy house was a stark contrast from his history in a cold and neglected environment. It is this juxtaposition that allows the newfound positivity of Michael’s mood to influence his personality and help him to adapt to his new environment. Leigh Anne’s dedication to Michael’s athletic and academic successes at school was proof to Michael that there was aspects of his past that did not apply in his present scenario. Most important was the difference between Leigh Anne’s maternal approach and that of Michael’s biological mother. Thus, Michael learned he did not have to be as guarded and reserved with the Touhy family, as he was when they first met. As Michael experienced their genuine kindheartedness, he felt a greater sense of loyalty and belonging. With the support and love of his new family, Michael’s hopeless mood and insecurities were gradually replaced with a newfound pride and confidence, both on and off the football field.
Michael’s personality traits saw serious and substantial improvement from his previously accepted norms of a negative and destructive past. The progressive changes which transformed his emotional and intellectual process, were repeatedly exhibited in his physical behavior. The protective instincts rooted in Michael’s personality, not only served him on the football field, but also influenced his behavior when he saved the life of young SJ Touhy in a car accident. The previous sadness and isolation he physically displayed through his introverted habits and depressed body language, gave way to more carefree and optimistic behavioral tendencies. For the first time, Michael stopped to notice beauty in details of his every day life, such as the colorful balloons he saw dispersed in the sky.
Michael’s Oher’s life did not have a perfect start. His childhood was crafted by hardship and he was greatly affected by negative surroundings early on. Oher’s chance encounter with the Touhy family allowed him to transition from defeated and homeless to a lifetime of love and belonging. Michael’s resulting gratitude and loyalty, combined with a structured athletic and academic environment, helped him to reverse the damage created by his original environment, and eventually improve his mood, then personality, and finally impact his behavior.