John Lee Hancock responds to right wing attacks on ‘The Blind Side’
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It used to be the liberals who loved to play the victim. But now it’s conservatives who just can’t enough of that warm and cuddly feeling of being an oppressed minority. What else could possibly explain the sudden spurt of right wing attacks on ‘The Blind Side,’ John Lee Hancock’s wonderful new family drama that stars Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy, a God-fearing Memphis go-getter who becomes a surrogate mother to a homeless African American teenager who ends up being a star football player.
The movie is a big hit, having been immediately embraced by audiences everywhere, especially in red-state America. (The film got an A-plus audience rating from CinemaScore, one of only two films this year to score that high.)
But conservative bloggers who either didn’t bother to see the movie or decided to deliberately ignore the fact that the film offers a totally positive portrayal of a white Southern evangelical Christian Republican family, have attacked the movie for one small joke made at the expense of George W. Bush, whose photograph, on the wall of a government office, is played for a laugh (For those who haven’t seen the movie, here’s the gag: frustrated by the glacial response from a dead-eyed government bureaucrat, Leigh Anne demands to know who is in charge. The civil servant points to a framed photo of a smiling George W.)
Big Hollywood’s John Nolte, for example, used the joke as a launching pad for a furious attack on leftist Hollywood, calling it ‘the single most intolerant industry in America today’ and an industry ‘engaged in an ideological war with traditional conservative America.’
But how could Hollywood be such a snake pit of lefty lock-step America hating if it allowed a filmmaker to make a mainstream studio picture that painted such a warm, affirmative portrait of an evangelical Christian family? Nolte proposes the wildly paranoid theory that even if you are a conservative working in Hollywood, you have to placate the Bush-hating liberals by taking shots at conservatives in your movies. Or as he put it: ‘You had better inoculate yourself. And that’s what the gratuitous, unnecessary, jarring, take-you-out-of-the-movie shot at Bush is: an inoculation. The filmmakers want to work again, they want to be invited to all the right parties....They all knew they were insulting the very audience the film was marketed at for no reason other than to insult them. But there was absolutely no way in hell this thing was going to see the light of day without something for the Hollywood bigots to snicker over.’
Is that really what happened? Was it really possible that John Lee Hancock, whose last film was a stirring tribute to the men who fought at the Alamo, is an American-hating lefty or a squishy conservative willing to betray his cause with a Bush-bashing joke? I asked Hancock if he could explain why he put the joke in the film. His response is especially telling, since it reminds us that movies are made by real human beings, not ideological robots, who have the same flaws and sensitivities as the rest of us. Here’s what Hancock had to say:
‘This wasn’t in the book. It was something I witnessed several years ago in a post office. It was not intended to represent Leigh Anne Tuohy’s feelings about Bush (she’s a conservative Republican) but rather the civil servant’s. Given Leigh Anne’s dress and demeanor I figured the civil servant would be knocking down Leigh Anne a notch by taking a slap at Bush. I always thought of it as a smile, not a laugh. After completing the movie and playing it for an audience I realized it was, for some, more of a laugh, and a cheap one to boot. I do regret not coming up with something more clever. But it wouldn’t be a movie of mine if I didn’t somehow figure out a way to piss off both conservatives and liberals.’