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Stereotypes, Emotions And Discriminatory Actions In The Blind Side

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The Blind Side is a film that follows the life of Michael Oher, an underprivileged high school football player that is supported by an upper class family, the Tuohys, and taken into their home. They provide him with shelter and a bed that he says he has never had. As the Tuohys are driving down the street one night, they see Michael walking alone in the cold. Mrs. Tuohy tells her husband to stop the car and she lets Michael inside. The couple discusses later that night about whether it was a good idea or not to allow Michael into their home. They ultimately decide that they are doing what is best for him and they can sacrifice a little bit of their life to help Michael. They support him in school, on the football field, and when he is trying out new things, like shopping. They consider legally adopting Michael to be part of their family and Mrs. Tuohy plans to visit his mother on the other side of the town they live in. Her side of town is full of impoverished people, and Mrs. Tuohy stands out as a wealthy, white woman in the midst of black individuals that are lower on a socio-economic scale. Everything works out and the Tuohy’s soon realize that they are not changing Michael’s life; he is changing theirs. In addition to giving Michael a second chance at being successful in life, this family teaches him that he can do anything if he works hard enough at it, and that it is okay to be different. However, these lessons are not learned without trials. Michael has to face the psychological principles of prejudice, minor post-traumatic stress symptoms, and aggression in school and on the football field.

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Prejudice is the act of discrimination against someone or something that has no cause. A prime example of prejudice is feelings of racism. This is apparent in The Blind Side as Michael is a black male who lives with a white family. Another source of prejudice is socio-economic status. Michael comes from an impoverished area, and the Tuohys live in a very nice, wealthy part of town. Before the Tuohys decide to let Michael stay for a while, Mr. Touhy is skeptical of allowing him to live at his home. He does not think a black man should live in his house, as do other people who talk to the Tuohys about their decision. This preconceived idea that Michael is bad due to his skin color is known as prejudice. It is noticeable how the prejudice affects Michael at home and in school. There are three things that make someone prejudiced: stereotype, emotions, and discrimination. The Tuohys get a phone call from a family member who says, “I’m just going to go ahead and ask…do y’all know there is a colored boy on your Christmas card? (Kosove, 2009). This shows that even their family members are prejudiced against Michael because he is a different skin color. After Michael moves into the Tuohys home, Mrs. Tuohy ‘s friends question this decision by making comments like, “Leigh Anne, is this some sort of white guilt thing?” and, “What about Collins? Aren’t you worried? Even just a little. He is a boy, a large, black boy sleeping under the same roof” (Kosove, 2009). These comments show the stereotype that black boys are a threat to teenage white girls. The friends have mixed emotions about whether or not it is a good idea. They say things like, “You’re changing that boys life,” and, “I think what you are doing is so great, to open up your home to him!” (Kosove, 2009). The different emotions that the ladies feel are part of the act of prejudice. Emotions towards someone usually come from learned behaviors like stereotypes. Also with prejudice, comes discrimination, which is putting prejudice into actions. Treating someone different because of physical, cultural, or personality differences is discrimination. In school, other students would run away from him and teachers would not help him as much as they would help the rest of the students. Michael writes that he realizes the people around him are prejudiced in a poem in school. The poem reads, “I look and I see white everywhere. White walls, white floors, and a lot of white people” (Kosove, 2009). Stereotypes, emotions, and discrimination in The Blind Side display the psychological principle of prejudice.

Post-traumatic stress syndrome is a more common syndrome for people who have served in the military, or who have been through very traumatic experiences. For Michael Oher, his traumatic event was when his mother got taken away from him in a fight when he was a baby. He was just an infant when his mother was at a party where there were intoxicated people. One of the people attending the party fired a gun after getting into a physical and verbal fight with another guy at the party. The gunshot scared him as an infant and his mother got taken away from him because of it. He sees constant flashbacks of that time in his life. Flashbacks are a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, because many people who have this disorder constantly relive the traumatic event in their head through memories, flashbacks, nightmares, or physical symptoms, such as sweating or a pounding heart. One particular scene showed Michael having a flashback after he had gotten in a fight with another guy that lives in the area. The guy had been tormenting him about how he was living with a rich white family. He was telling Michael to get with the daughter of the family he was staying with, which offended Michael. This made Michael start to fight the guy and the guy pulled out a gun. The gun went off and this triggered the flashback for Michael. The flashback caused Michael to start crying and feel a lot of emotions. This brief moment full of panic for Michael is a minor symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder. Melinda Smith described post-traumatic stress disorder in an article titled “PTSD: Symptoms, Self-Help, and Treatment”: “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following a traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless” (Smith, 2016). The traumatic event is followed by constant feelings of pain and a sense of danger. This is exactly what Michael feels as soon as the gun fires. The feelings of pain flood his mind and the memories come back. Michael does not let these minor symptoms control his life, but he does use the memories to find a direction in his life. He knows after having these flashbacks, he does not want to go back to the area that used to be his home. Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect people greatly, and this is shown in a minor way through Michael Oher throughout The Blind Side.

The movie shows the psychological principles of prejudice and post-traumatic stress disorder, but it also shows aggression. Aggression is stimulated in the amygdala in the brain and is defined by David Meyers as “any physical or verbal behavior intended to hurt or destroy” (Meyers, 2011). There are several scenes in which Michael shows that he can be aggressive, including scenes on the football field. Michael never showed too much aggression on the field, in fact, his head coach was talking to his assistant coach about how the opposing teams would view Michael: “They’ll be terrified until they realize he is a marshmallow” (Kosove, 2009). The coaches had to try to teach him his aggression, but Mrs. Tuohy was the only person who gave him the right advice. His aggression came from protective instincts, which is one of the many causes of aggression. His aggression goes to the extreme on the football field when he carries an opponent off of the field rather than just simply tackling him. The player had been taking advantage of Michael throughout the entire football game, and Michael finally had enough. When the whistle blew for the play to start, Michael remembered what Mrs. Tuohy had told him about protecting the team like they were his family (Kosove, 2009). He grabbed the opponent, ran while carrying him across the field, and threw him over the fence; this is the epitome of aggressiveness in sports. The term for people who are constantly aggressive is Type A. Michael is not a Type A person, but his old friend at his old home area that pulled out a gun is a Type A person. That scene is an example of when aggression is caused by a sudden event and the sympathetic nervous system is aroused. The Frustration-Aggression Principle is a principle defined as the quick process that turns frustration into anger and anger into aggression (Meyers, 2011). Michael was frustrated that the friend was talking badly about Collins, so he got angry. His sympathetic nervous system made him anxious and his adrenal glands made him angrily aroused. This caused him to get aggressive and throw a punch at the friend. Violence, like physically fighting, it an example of what results from aggression. The Blind Side incorporates the psychological principle of aggression in several different ways, which resemble everyday acts of aggression.

Ultimately, Michael Oher and several other characters in the movie, The Blind Side, display three big psychological principles throughout the portion of their lives that is captured in the movie. The three principles are prejudice, minor signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, and aggression. Three things are necessary for something to be considered prejudiced, and The Blind Side shows all three: stereotypes, emotions, and discriminatory actions. Post-traumatic stress disorder is exhibited through Michael’s flashbacks of his dramatic childhood parting with his mother. Finally, aggression is shown through actions on and off of the football field by Michael, but is also showcased by several other characters in the movie. All three principles tie together to make The Blind Side accurately portray human social behavior.

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