Middle America Cheers For Sandra Bullock
Listening to National Public Radio handicap the Academy Award Best Actress Nominees, it’s clear that media and Hollywood elites think the movie The Blind Side has too much mass appeal and not enough edginess to win any serious awards. Within hours of the announcement of Oscar nominations, the Hollywood press had mostly condescending analysis of Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy, a real-life suburban woman who intervenes in a troubled teenager’s life. ABC News went so far to ask on February 3, “Does Sandra Bullock Deserve an Oscar for Blind Side?” For the super-cool Hollywood types, Leigh Anne is just too simple. For them, straight forward and inspiring is boring. They think church-attending Republicans from the South are not hip enough for an Academy Award. However, despite the fact that Bullock’s performance continues to inspire millions of moviegoers around the world, few filmmakers in Hollywood seem impressed enough to reward her an Oscar.
The divide between those who attend movies and those who make movies has never been wider. While serious Hollywood types spend most of their time, energy and money on movies that trivialize the experiences of middle America, middle America spends its time and money on movies that celebrate what it is to be an American. Capitalism is good for Hollywood executives, but it’s under assault in the scripts being written. American military men and women are celebrated as heroes on Main Street, but they are overwhelmingly portrayed as killers in the movies that Hollywood produces. And while Hollywood is tremendously liberal, the rest of America is not.
But middle America is fighting back. Millions of people have responded to The Blind Side and Sandra Bullock’s performance in such a way that many of the traditional Hollywood types have been forced to take notice. If there is one thing that Hollywood understands, it is money. Variety reported in early January that The Blind Side brought in $208.5 million in its 7th week of release, making it the first picture in history driven solely by a female star to break the $200 million domestic box office mark. Sandra Bullock is America’s star, not Hollywood’s. We have responded to her performances over the years because she is inspiring and talented. America loves Bullock’s real humility, fun personality and true generosity. Bullock gives generously to crisis’ like her $1 million dollar gift to the Tsunami Relief effort in Indonesia, more to Hurricane Katrina relief and recently the Haiti earthquake fund – all without seeking media attention for it. She is funny, beautiful and refreshingly normal. Bullock is not from a Hollywood dynasty or family, she is someone from your family.
For the millions of moviegoers who have seen The Blind Side, it’s more than a blockbuster movie. For them, Bullock is a hero who doesn’t wait for others to respond or a government program to kick in before she helps a young man in need. The Blind Side speaks to America’s sense of right and wrong, and Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy is a suburban anthem that continues to inspire and cajole men and women to help change someone’s life. For millions of Americans, The Blind Side is more accurately America than the highly celebrated movie Precious. The Blind Side is the conservative response to Hollywood’s fêted Precious. While Precious was gritty and edgy, Bullock’s performance in The Blind Side was just as real. Bullock could have easily given in to the usual Hollywood portrayal of a southern Christian woman by overdoing the sappiness and creating a condescending caricature of life in the suburbs when you have a southern accent. But Bullock knows real suburban America because that is where she came from. The brilliance of The Blind Side is that the characters weren’t over the top in the usual Hollywood way. The characters were real – real Americans struggling to change their world.
While many in Hollywood dismiss the life experiences of everyday Americans as trivial or unglamorous, Bullock’s performance in The Blind Side celebrates real Americans. America doesn’t need to be taught by Hollywood, Hollywood could use some lessons from real Americans. Sandra Bullock just may be the one person is Hollywood that could bridge the ever-growing gap between the two.