'The Blind Side': In Salute of the Do-Right Woman

Oscar winner Sandra Bullock's portrayal of feisty Leigh Anne Tuohy represents a strong, relatable woman we all know

Leigh Anne Tuohy, as played by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock in the inspirational sports movie The Blind Side, is a rich Memphis dynamo interior decorator and mother of two who takes in a homeless African-American teen named Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) and helps guide him into the NFL. Although it’s based on real people, shown in photos over the end credits, among some movie reviewers there’s a skepticism about, if not an outright bias against, this kind of take-charge wife, mother and, yes, card-carrying Republican.

The Village Voice’s Melissa Anderson dismissed Mrs. Tuohy as a "steel Magnolia" and wrote: “But for all the supposed uplift, Bullock's facile Good Christian Materialist Southern Woman is part of The Blind Side's desperate cynicism.” In The New York Times, A. O. Scott chimed in: “Bullock is convincing enough as an energetic, multitasking woman of the New South, who knows her own mind and usually gets her own way,” then sneers a few paragraphs later, “Ms. Bullock’s brisk self-confidence can be appealing -- until it becomes annoying….after a while her display of goodness sinks into vanity.”

But I recognized Leigh Anne immediately. Even though I have my own bias against sports movies and am allergic to “Gipper” speeches, I embraced her character, one that I’ve rarely seen in contemporary movies. Tuohy is a successful heroine with the confidence of a Clint Eastwood lawman, but she has a manicure instead of a Magnum 44.

Leigh Anne is a tornado in a twinset -- and I know American women like her. I see them every day in the pick-up line at school. They’re all around us -- but rarely depicted in the movies. They’re take-charge gals who drive their families like the SUV’s they’ve worked hard to purchase. One of my best friends put her self through a Southern college as a beauty queen. She works hard, manages the commercial properties she owns, drives her children to private school where she’s a class mother and vocal advocate for her kids’ education, throws cocktail parties for 100 for her husband’s business -- and still has time to take her shoes off and ask me what the latest movies are over a glass of wine in her spotless yet comfy living room. She’s always generously entangled in other people’s lives because she cares, deeply, and feels an obligation to do right.

So, I salute Leigh Anne Tuohy, and all the women of the car pool, working challenging jobs, keeping up with their women friends, navigating their children’s educations and their husband’s careers, buying birthday presents and organizing Thanksgiving -- even if it’s just really good take-out in front of the TV. And I salute Bullock who steps into those Nordstrom pumps and takes no prisoners on or off the football field. I recognize that do-right woman, and she’s not just on the screen, she’s here among us.

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