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Megan Guerrieri & Mike Hurlimann Movie Analysis #1 - The Blind Side Dr.

Swarts - Communication Theory 10-28-13 The Blind Side is a movie that applies to various theories in communication by showing specific examples of Symbolic Interaction, Uncertainty Reduction, Social Penetration, and Expectancy Violations. Our movie analysis of The Blind Side will explain the relationships that Michael develops with the Touhy family, the faculty at Wingate Christian School, and NCAA officials. Through our explanation we will apply these four theories to the development of Michael's relationships with each group of unfamiliar communicators and consider the outside factors that make the involved communicators act in the way they do. One example of Symbolic Interaction Theory in The Blind Side occurs when the teachers at Wingate discuss Michaels academic performance. Four teachers are sitting around the room talking about how they always hate when admissions gives them students who they cant help. They are just setting him up to fail, they say. The teachers think that Michael is stupid and will fail their classes. For years, Michael had been passed from teacher to teacher who gave him Ds and Cs just so that they could get rid of him and pass him along to someone else. Even when one of the teachers shows that Michael is able to think by reading the poem, White Walls, that Michael wrote, the other teachers dismiss it as insignificant and one of the teachers even asks how Michaels spelling was. The poem is an example of Michael's inner conversation or his thought. (text) We see this as an example of the Pygmalion effect discussed in SIT. (text) The teachers and the rest of society have labeled Michael as a problem bigger than they could handle, so they

let him go. Because of this, Michael himself thought the same thing. He never tried during any of his classes and didnt think that he was going to do anything with his life. Even in his poem, Michael stated that he never did any homework in his life and that the teachers give him the work and just expect him to complete it, something which he has never done before. The next scene in which the teachers gather to discuss Michael, the teacher that read Michael's poem expressed to her colleagues that Michael actually wasn't stupid because he earned a C- on a quiz which she gave to him verbally instead of taking the test like everyone else. The teacher changed her approach to testing Michael's knowledge of the material and was surprised by the outcome which related to Expectancy Violations. The expectancy that Michael didn't know the material was the teacher's cognition anticipated prior to testing Michael. This expectancy came from the assumption of Expectancy Violations that people make predictions about nonverbal behavior. (text) Since the teachers never heard Michael talk, they expected him to not know the material. However, the teacher who read Michael's poem experienced cognitive arousal from the expectation because the poem indicated that Michael had the ability to write, which would reject the expectation that Michael was stupid. The teacher's inclination that Michael might not be stupid ties to the assumption of Expectancy Violations that expectancies drive human interaction. (text) Since she thought Michael might know the material after all, she decided to use a social context by testing him orally rather than a task functions context by having him read and write answers. Symbolic Interaction Theory is also present when Leigh Anne Touhy is at lunch with her girlfriends. They all think that she is doing this as a charity case and Leigh Anne denies it and says that Michael is changing her life. One of the women then asks Leigh Anne if she feels comfortable having Michael in the house with her teenage daughter, Collins, there as well stating

that, he is a large, black boy sleeping under the same roof. Leigh Anne, obviously offended by her friend, proceeds to get up and walk away. This example is pointed out by the woman, Elaine, who used the symbols that she associated with big, black men them being rapists and unable to control themselves around pretty, white women and applied it to Leigh Annes situation. This follows the first and second assumption of the theory saying that humans act towards others on the basis of the meanings those others have for them and that meaning is created in interaction between people. (text) The final significant example of Symbolic Interaction we noticed was during Michael's first practice as a left tackle on the offensive line. When Michael wasn't doing his job well, the coach was unable to get Michael to do what he was supposed to do because he didn't understand the language of football. Leigh Anne knew how to communicate with Michael because she knew that he tested in the 98th percentile in the Protective Instincts category on a career aptitude test. So she went onto the field and related Michael's football position to protecting the Touhy family. Two significant symbols were used by Leigh Anne in her and Michael's shared mind. (text) The first was that the quarterback was Leigh Anne and Michael needed to protect the quarterback like Michael protected her when they went shopping together. The second was that the tailback was SJ and Michael needed to protect the tailback like he protected SJ when they got into the car accident. By doing this, Michael was able to understand his position and what he needed to do for the team. Social Penetration Theory is evident in a lot of this movie. The whole idea of selfdisclosure moves the relationship with Michael and Leigh Anne Touhy throughout the entire movie. (text) It starts when Leigh Anne takes Michael to get clothes after he stays the first night in their house. After asking Michael a couple of questions about himself and Michael not

responding, she stops the car and tells him to tell her everything she needs to know about him. Leigh Anne is expecting a lot of self-disclosure from Michael, but as we know from some flashbacks at the beginning of the movie, Michael has a difficult past that he doesnt like to talk about. The first step of Michaels self-disclosure to Leigh Anne is when she gets one piece of information out of Michael. He says that he doesnt like to be called Big Mike, so Leigh Anne tells him that she will only call him Michael from then on. This signifies to Michael that Leigh Anne is doing everything she can to make Michael feel comfortable enough for him to disclose information to him. Leigh Anne and the entire Touhy family reciprocate Michaels openness when he finally starts to get deeper into his layers and this makes Michael feel comfortable in their family. The onion analogy of a person is even brought up twice in the movie, blatantly exemplifying Social Penetration Theory. (text) Once when Leigh Anne is talking to Sean about Michaels refusal for self-disclosure and Sean says that Michael is like an onion that you need to pull back a layer at a time. Leigh Anne responds by saying that you can get to the center faster by using a knife, which appeals to the assumption that self-disclosure is at the core of relationship development. (text) If Leigh Anne can get Michael to self-disclose, then she will ultimately develop a deeper relationship with him. The second comes at the end of the movie when Leigh Anne, saddened to leave Michael at college, refuses to let her family see her cry and Michael asks why. Sean again says the same thing that Leigh Anne is an onion with many different layers. Ironically, Leigh Anne's knife reference was used by Michael in this situation as he proceeded to go straight to Leigh Anne and ask for a proper hug, which showed the complete progression of a relationships progress from nonintimate to intimate. (text) The beginning of this

progression was displayed when Leigh Anne took Michael shopping and asked if he was going to protect her. Michael responded "I got your back" and Leigh Anne went from walking beside him to linking arms and getting closer to him to feel safer. These examples of Michael getting closer with the Touhy family can also be related to Uncertainty Reduction Theory. In this theory, it is stated that uncertainty is an aversive state which people want to get out of by reducing their uncertainty. (text) Throughout the film, Leigh Anne questions whether her family is doing the right thing with Michael. Just like with selfdisclosure in SPT. Leigh Anne continually questions Michael on his past asking him to tell her everything she needs to know about him. Michael and the Touhys go through all the stages of the developmental process of interpersonal communication. The entry phase occurs when Leigh Anne first invites Michael to stay at their house for the night. Leigh Anne had no way of knowing whether Michael would steal anything, something she worries about to Sean, but comes downstairs to find that Michael had already left. The entry phase continues into the personal phase when Michael stayed for Thanksgiving and the rest of the nights he spent at the Touhys house. There are two parts of the exit phase occurring in the film. One when the Touhys ask Michael to become a permanent part of their family and the second when Michael and the Touhys are accused by the NCAA of funneling an athlete to Ole Miss. When the Touhys ask Michael to become a part of the family, Michael responds that he thought that he already was, but it was up to him as to whether he wanted to continue his relationship he was forming with the Touhys or if he was going to terminate the relationship by denying their offer to officially join the family. It was also up to the Touhys to extend this type of relationship to Michael in the first place.

When Michael is questioned by the NCAA, he runs away and starts thinking that the Touhys had just taken him in for all the reasons the NCAA representative told him that they were taking advantage of his situation. In the end, Michael decided to believe the relationship he had formed with the Touhys, but there was a time where he could have broken it off completely and went back to his life in Hurt Village. Michael's relationship with Collins clearly showed the stages of entry phase, personal phase, and exit phase. The entry phase between Collins and Michael takes place when Michael first comes home and Collins reacts to seeing him. Her facial expression and tone of voice changed when she saw Michael as opposed to when she was looking at the TV and assumed it was just her mom, dad, and younger brother coming back from SJ's acting performance. The personal phase occurs when Michael comes into the library and Collins is sitting with her friends studying. Collins takes the relationship to the personal phase stage by leaving her friends and sitting with Michael instead. The theory of Expectancy Violations can be applied to this action as Collins moved from a social distance to a personal distance. The preinteractional expectations of Collins in this situation took place the scene before the library scene where Leigh Anne asked Collins if she was comfortable with Michael living with them. The conversation with her mom and the fact that her was knowledge Collins had entering the interaction in the library. The actual event of her moving from the social distance to the personal distance leads to the interactional expectations. Since Collins and Michael had studied together at home, she was able to carry out the interaction of studying with Michael in the library. This changed the violation valence because Michael reacted positively to Collins wanting to study with him by smiling. Michael expected to study alone in public because he always had but the deviation of Collins joining him in the library was taken positively by Michael.

The exit phase between Collins and Michael came when the Touhys asked Michael to be a part of the family permanently. The nonverbal communication that indicates this stage is when Michael looks at Collins to see whether or not she approves of her parents asking Michael to join the family. When he looks at her, Collins smiles and nods her head meaning that they will continue their relationship as siblings. All four theories of Symbolic Interaction, Uncertainty Reduction, Social Penetration, and Expectancy Violations were clearly shown in The Blind Side. Michael's interactions with the Touhy family progressed through the stages of Social Penetration Theory. Through selfdisclosure and inner conversation, Michael's relationships with the Touhy family and the faculty at Wingate were able to develop and Michael was able to exceed the expectations everyone had for him coming into Wingate. As the uncertainty was reduced between the Touhy family and Michael, Leigh Anne was able to help Michael understand football and what it meant to have a family. By giving Michael a sense of family, he was able to share mind with Leigh Anne and learn how to play football. Even after Michael was labeled by the teachers as bound to fail, he was able to learn the material necessary to graduate and move on to Ole Miss. Applying these four theories explains the progression of Michael's relationships and how they developed over a two year time span.