The Biopic Dilemma: Balancing Art, Truth, and Ethics

The Biopic Dilemma: Balancing Art, Truth, and Ethics

Biographical films, also known as biopics, are becoming increasingly popular in mainstream media, providing moviegoers with an opportunity to take a glimpse into the lives of inspiring figures. In order to tell these stories effectively, one must balance art, truth, and ethics, as these qualities are key to the success and authenticity of a biographical depiction. Most biopics struggle to find the right balance between these elements, prompting the question of how the entertainment industry considers and uses art, truth, and ethics in crafting informative storytelling about central figures.

Biopics derive their artistic value from a well-crafted screenplay. Filmmakers need to use it as a blueprint for the production to create an engaging and informative portrayal of a person’s life. Through a well-written script, biopics have engaging sequences, unseen perspectives, and acting performances that mirror the biopic’s central figure.

Without a clear focus on the individual the biopic is centered on, there’s a risk of introducing fictional elements or taking creative liberties that distort the true history of the person. The artistic portrayal of turning a real person and their life into a successful film relies heavily on accuracy in the creation of a biopic, filmmakers have to also consider truth and ethics.

When it comes to truth and ethics, filmmakers usually are capitalizing on either false information or the glorification of sensitive material to increase viewership. For instance “The Wolf of Wall Street,” is a dark overview of the infamous life of stockbroker Jordan Belfort. This film promotes heavy usage of drugs and displays erotic behavior that is an inaccurate representation of his life to draw the attention of viewers. Certain films such as “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story’’ attempt to integrate fictional elements into Bruce Lee’s life for the purpose of entertainment, but this results in a distortion of the accurate portrayal of the martial artist.

Breaking ethical rules might seem controversial, but in some cases, biopics have to do it to stay true to someone’s life story. The problem many films face is finding the perfect balance between not sensationalizing explicit material while also addressing a person’s controversies for accuracy.

“The problem many films face is finding the perfect balance between not sensationalizing explicit material while also addressing a person’s controversies for accuracy.”

“Selena” demonstrates this perfectly, as the film purposefully chooses to recount Selena Quintanillia’s shocking death. Covering her death was important since it gives an accurate portrayal of her life and still manages to be ethical. In contrast, Baz Luhrmann’s biographical depiction of Elvis Presley did the exact opposite.The biopic failed to address the problematic disparity in age between Elvis and his ex-wife Priscilla. Certain topics like this have to be covered not just for accuracy but also to show how significant its effect was on the central figure.

While flawless biopics are rare, a few come close to mastering the art of depicting someone’s life. “The Social Network” is a good example of this. The film is well-written and its director was willing to delve deeper into the overlooked origin of Facebook, even if parts were inaccurate. The critically acclaimed film “A Beautiful Mind” explores the tragic aspects of John Nashe’s life, incorporating minor creative liberties to enhance the artistic appeal. Despite these films’ errors, they are able to demonstrate the balance between art, truth, and ethics, which future biographical depictions should learn from.

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