It’s time for Hollywood to move away from biopics.
Sofia Coppola’s latest film, Priscilla, recently hit the silver screen, sparking a fervorous anticipation among film enthusiasts like myself. While I’ve been looking forward to this film for quite some time, I can’t help but ponder Hollywood’s curious fascination with biopics.
It appears almost every other film in recent years has been a biography of some celebrity or another, and there’s no surprise why they’re successful. Time after time, people—myself included—flock to the theatres to watch films showcasing the lives of some of the most iconic names in history. These films offer a glimpse into the lives of real people, and allow viewers to connect with the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of individuals who have undoubtably left their mark on history.
Though biopics are already highly anticipated films, their success often hinges on the mesmerizing performances of actors who bring these figures back to life. Take Rami Malek’s electrifying portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody as an example, or Austin Butler’s breathtaking embodiment of Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 film—which even received praise and support from Elvis’ family.
These performances not only immerse audiences in the lives of iconic personalities but also transport them to a bygone era.
Despite their undeniable success, it’s time Hollywood moves away from the genre because they serve as a driving force behind the perpetuation of the cult celebrity, contributing to the mythic status of famous figures.
Through cinematic storytelling, these films often paint celebrities as heroes—allowing viewers to see the world through their eyes, understand their vulnerabilities, and empathize with their journeys, while fostering a profound connection, admiration, and even reverence for the portrayed figures that extends beyond the cinema.
Biopics have a profound influence on public perception, shaping the way we view these individuals outside their on-screen representations. Society loves a good underdog story, and biopics emphasize storylines where ordinary people rise to extraordinary heights, encouraging audiences to identify with the human side of the celebrities, fostering a deep sense of connection.
Obviously, there’s no better way to showcase this than a movie on that person’s life.
While biopics can be a source of inspiration, they also harbour a darker side that prompts us to question the validity and consequences of this obsession. The biographical lens through which they portray their subjects isn’t always as accurate as we would hope, sometimes leading to a distorted view of historical events and people.
Take the cult classic, The Social Network, for example, which offered a dramatized rendition of Mark Zuckerberg’s journey in the creation of Facebook. The film leaves viewers with a skewed perspective of the events that transpired. Though Zuckerberg himself expressed his dissatisfaction with the film, it still garnered a lot of success, winning various awards including three Oscars and four Golden Globes for editing, writing, and acting.
Often, biopics also perpetuate stereotypes and play into preconceived notions about certain individuals and events. When these films inaccurately portray their subjects, they can reinforce harmful stereotypes and perpetuate myths that have long been discredited. This distortion can have a lasting impact on the public’s perception of real-life figures.
Additionally, the relentless pursuit of biographical accuracy often results in an extreme invasion of privacy. The boundary between the public and private lives of celebrities is blurred when making their most intimate moments are laid bare for scrutiny—raising ethical questions about the extent to which filmmakers should delve into personal matters.
The 2022 film, Blonde, based on the novel of the same name by Joyce Carol Oates, is Hollywood’s newest, and perhaps most controversial, portrayal of Marilyn Monroe’s rise to fame. The film hasn’t only faced criticism for being highly inaccurate, but also extremely invasive.
While Ana de Armas described the film as a “daring, unapologetic and feminist take on [Marilyn’s] story,” fans and critics alike have expressed a different sentiment—describing the film as “horrifying” and “disgusting.”
The film portrays Monroe as having had two forced abortions, with one scene even showing her “talking” to a CGI fetus. As one of the most iconic figures in Hollywood history, Monroe has been the focus of countless narratives, documentaries, and even conspiracy theories. The film portrays Monroe as having had two forced abortions, with one scene even showing her “talking” to a CGI fetus.
Though filmmakers are permitted to take creative liberties, this move wasn’t supported by any factual evidence and raises serious ethical concerns and crosses the boundaries of storytelling. By presenting the procedure as a tragic event in Monroe’s life, the film implies that abortion is inherently sorrowful, grossly misrepresenting the realities of abortion and contributing to the stigmatization of abortion.
Though some films and filmmakers make the conscious effort to do right by their subjects, it’s not always possible. Next time you consider watching a movie on your favourite celebrity, remember to take everything with a grain of salt. Although it may seem counterintuitive, it’s possible to appreciate the inspiring stories while also recognizing their pitfalls.
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