Labels, Meanings, and Reality

As I look for something to write about I stumbled upon a film I really like. The film showed applications of interpersonal communication theories. The film is called The Blind Side and here is how it goes:

A pure act of kindness is what started the story of Michael Oher and the Tuohy family. On their way home, Leigh Anne saw the shivering Michael walking on the road. She discovers that he plans to sleep in the closed gym; Leigh Anne offers him a place to stay for the night. She thought that is the right thing to do and she does it. This leads to spending Thanksgiving with Michael and other events that eventually makes him a part of the Tuohy family.

Michael grew up in a troubled neighborhood. His mother was a drug addict and his father left when he was only a week old. He spent his childhood moving from one foster family to another. He settles with the family and runaways afterwards. Michael did this over and over again. This influenced how Michael sees himself and the society he lives in. The society as well sees him differently judging on what they see on the outside and his pressing life situation. While he was growing and even up to the time that he was studying in the Christian school, Michael was thought of as stupid, uneducated and scruffy. Few people believe in him, that is why he did not believe in himself as well. People are not born with the concept of “self”. The “self” arises thought our interactions with other people. This is one facet where symbolic interactionism is observed. He was labeled as “Big Mike”, a name that Michael did not want to be called. This name prevented people from seeing who he really was. All they saw was his “big” size. He was called many names including “stupid”, “black”, “one of the charities”, and many more. When one of his teachers read what he had written and realized that he was not stupid, they started to understand him and gave considerations that he earned and deserved. Labeling applies not only in humans and things but in all situations we encounter because only when something is labeled properly that it can be understood properly. As an effect, the negative self that Michael thought of himself disappear gradually as the people around him grew understanding of who he truly was.

During one of Leigh Anne’s tea time, her posh companions wondered why she took Michael in. They only saw Michael as a “charity work” and a possible threat to her family especially to Collins. However, to the Tuohys, Michael was more than that. He was a son to and a sibling. Leigh Anne had a new found courage because of Michael. The family learned that even without biological ties they are still a family. Michael and the Tuohys became the thriving force of each other. The small things that they seemed to forget like bedtime storytelling, eating in the dining table, and such were brought back to them by Michael. As Sean said, Leigh Anne and Michael are both like onions. They helped each other peel each layer and open up to each other thus establishing a better relationship either the people around them.

Two sides of Michael were shown. The first was before he met the Tuohys. Michael was quiet and somewhat antisocial. He reacted that way towards the “white” people because he believed that we did not belong and that he was different. He was trying to fit in and was barely succeeding. He wanted to make friends but people stir away from him. He, then and there, kept his distance too. The other side of Michael was seen when he was becoming and already is a part of the Tuohy family. The cheerful and funny Michael came out. At first, he was scared and unsure but little by little he opened up to the family. Just like Leigh Anne, Michael was also an onion. It took time before he fully opened himself to Leigh Anne. Family is very important to him whether it is his biological family or the Tuohys. He is very protective of them. He does not trust men easily because he believes that they will just pretend to care until that time that leaves you. He had a deep understanding and belief about courage and honor. Courage, Michael thought, was easy. He is brave and strong. He is able to survive years in the troubled neighborhood and he is fearless in the football field. Nevertheless, true courage, as he said, requires honor. One must have honor to be able to recognize the right path and courage to act upon it.

The events in Michael’s life happened because he and the people around him responded based on the reality they have created though their shared and personal meanings. Only through his or her experiences that one makes meanings. It is a reminder that the meanings we fashion are important not only to us but the people around us as. Without others, one cannot be fully someone.

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