The Blind Side featured one of those incredible, only-in-the-movies feel-good stories — except it was supposedly based on reality (and a non-fiction book by Michael Lewis). In the film, Sandra Bullock plays Leigh Anne Tuohy, whose family helps a young man from the foster care system named Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) first find success at school and on the football field, and later, adopts him and makes him a full-fledged member of his family. Oher went on to a successful NFL career, and then his and the Tuohy’s story was told in The Blind Side book and movie — with Bullock winning an Oscar for her performance in the film.
But if there is ever a Blind Side sequel, it looks like it would have to be in an entirely different genre — possibly a courtroom drama, because Oher is now petitioning a court in Tennessee to end his relationship with the Tuohys, alleging that despite what they claimed they never actually adopted him, and instead made themselves his conservators. Doing so, he claims, gave them the right to make business deals on his behalf, and to keep the lion’s share of the money from telling their story for themselves.
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Oher’s petition states:
Since at least August of 2004, Conservators have allowed Michael, specifically, and the public, generally, to believe that Conservators adopted Michael and have used that untruth to gain financial advantages for themselves and the foundations which they own or which they exercise control … All monies made in said manner should in all conscience and equity be disgorged and paid over to the said ward, Michael Oher.
According to ESPN, the Tuohys have previously insisted the money they made from The Blind Side movie was split “five ways” between the members of the family.
In Oher’s own book, I Beat the Odds, he said that he was told that entering into a conservatorship with the Tuohys was essentially the same as being adopted. Legally, that is not accurate. If the Tuohys did legally adopt Oher, he still would maintain power over his own finances. Being in a conservatorship allegedly gave the Tuohys that power.
Oher’s lawyer also told ESPN that while he was close with the Tuohys for many years, their relationship “started to decline when he discovered that he was portrayed in the movie as unintelligent,” and “continued to deteriorate as he learned that he was the only member of the family not receiving royalty checks from the movie.” Oher claims his depiction in The Blind Side as a man who struggled academically clouded some NFL coaches’ opinions of him and what roles he could play on the football field.
Oher’s petition seeks to end the conservatorship and to stop the Tuohy family from using his name and likeness in the future. We’ll see how they respond. Whatever the outcome, it will be awfully hard to look at The Blind Side as a purely inspirational story ever again.