Biopics pose question of creative liberties

Growing up, one of my mom’s favorite movies was “Erin Brokovich,” a biopic on a case in California about poisoned water by a large company. Throughout my life, I have seen many instances of biopics, such as “Blonde” or Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis,” some anticipated, some despised, but all met with some sort of criticism by viewers.

“Biopic” is the shortened term for a popular genre of movies based on the biography of one’s life. What makes the genre of biopics such a gray area is that they may depict fictionalized elements among real events and still be considered a biopic.

Recently, there has been an influx of biopics in Hollywood, from “Openheimer” about J. Robert Openheimer, to “Till” about Emmet Till, to “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” about Whitney Houston releasing just this year; there clearly is no shortage of biopics in the industry.

Resulting from the increase in biopics, there has been a return to old pop culture icons and media with biopics such as “Rocketman,” portraying Sir Elton John’s life and music career, and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” about Freddie Mercury and the popular 70’s rock band Queen.

One common theme seen across many criticisms is the idea that the biopic does not accurately portray the person’s life, or that its missing details need to be included.

This then speaks to the true meaning of a biopic. A biopic is defined as a movie dramatizing the life of a particular person, typically a public or historical figure. Thus, a biopic is dramatic in nature, taking creative liberties to best portray the figure in the producer’s vision.

There is a question that must be asked at this moment: how far is too far of creative liberty? Creative liberties may mean simply changing the color of an outfit, or even changing an entire life event such as done in “Blonde.” Too far of a creative liberty and the impression is completely changed for audience members that know little about that person.

Some may argue that while a biopic might not always be the most accurate form of media on a person’s life or an event that happened to them, biopics often serve as bite-sized bits of information that allow one to consume information quickly and easily without putting much effort into researching the person on their own.

However, that’s just it. Without putting in much effort, how is one to fully understand the person in their entirety? In these cases, the person is reduced simply to what the producers handpicked to be included in that movie.

That’s not to say that all biopics are bad. In fact, some are incredibly deep, such as “Schindler’s List,” “Selma” and more. But even in these exists some form of creative liberties.