And yet...as SJ reveals, he's only playing "Indian #3." The implication is that the real "chief" and another "Indian" were dressed even more gaudily than SJ. This Thanksgiving feast must've resembled a chiefs convention.
In other words, The Blind Side missed the mark even worse than movies and TV shows usually miss the mark when discussing Thanksgiving. Gosh, I can't imagine where the public gets the idea that every Indian resembles a 19th-century Plains chief. Maybe from movies like The Blind Side that tell us exactly that.
Racial tolerance gone wrong
What's especially funny is that The Blind Side is a movie about race. Sandra Bullock and company are aware that they're sending racially-tinged messages to the audience. They're even aware that their Thanksgiving bit sends a message.
SJ complains that he was the victim of multiculturalism run amok because a Chinese boy got to play the chief (presumably "Indian #1"). His father notes that he's Irish, which is no closer to being an Indian. In fact, the pure-blooded Wampanoag Indians probably were closer to Asians than to Europeans, genetically speaking.
Later in the movie, Kathy Bates as the tutor makes a comment about Sacawagea guiding the Lewis and Clark expedition. She ominously hints that that wasn't the real story. We don't find out what she means, but whatever. The point is that the filmmakers seem to have a smidgen of awareness about Indians.
And yet they get the most basic fact about Indians--that there were no Plains chiefs at the first Thanksgiving--wrong. How stupid is that? Pretty darn stupid.
How the scene should've gone
In the same 30 or so seconds of screen time, the movie could've sent the opposite message. Imagine SJ dressed as a typical Indian "brave" rather than a chief. Here's the dialogue:
SJ: Ah, I was only Indian #3. I wanted to be the chief.
SJ: They gave the role to that stupid Chinese kid.
MOM: Don't call people stupid.
DAD: We're Irish, you know. That kid is probably closer to an Indian than you are, genetically speaking.
MOM: Besides, he looked silly dressed as a Plains chief. This school doesn't seem to know much about American history.
As for the rest of the movie...well, you know all those sports dramas about race? Movies like Remember the Titans and Friday Night Lights? This is like them but without the racial conflicts.
There's no drama at home--Michael the black teenager smoothly joins his new family. No drama at school--a few kids look at him funny, but that's about it. And no drama on the field--the worst Michael experiences is one opponent taunting him about his size. The result is a sweet, sentimental film that could've been a G-rated Disney family flick.
The biggest conflict is whether Michael, the gentle giant who wouldn't hurt a fly, will succeed at football. Fortunately, this lamb turns into a lion when you tell him the other team is threatening his "family" (team). Maybe the real Michael was this pliable, but it makes him look like a dumb black guy who couldn't even understand a game.
I'd say The Blind Side is at least half an hour too long. And I don't think Sandra Bullock's performance was an Oscar winner. She seems to be playing her usual tough professional woman with a heart of gold. I agree with those who said she got the award for being an old-school trouper who's produced a solid body of work.
All, in all, I'd say The Blind Side is a nice but undemanding piece of filmmaking. Rob's rating: 7.5 of 10.
For more on the subject, see Thanksgiving Pageant in Desperate Housewives and Why Thanksgiving Pageants Are Wrong.