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Biopics That Are Impacted By The Truth

Biopics That Are Impacted

The Truth Hurts

Biopics: Not Necessarily the Truth 

While biopics have always been around, biopics concerning important figures and celebrities have been a popular trend for films as of late. These films can give us a glimpse of their lives, their upbringing, and tell stories and perspectives that an outsider or a fan wouldn’t know. Not all of the films are necessarily true, nor the vision that the figure might have wanted for themselves if they’re not alive to tell it. Some can be made while the person is still alive, like Elton John’s Rocketman, or when the person has passed away. Some films can be corroborated through sources, friends, or family, while some can be based off of someone’s biography or autobiography. 

When it comes to biopics, the writers and directors are typically pretty open about where they’ve gotten their material. The truth is not always what’s best for the film. Bending or leaving out truths may make the film easier to film, more interesting, more cohesive. All that matters in the end is the final product. There are some biopics, though, that are dampened by the truth if one looks for it. Considering these biopics are supposed to be reflections of the subject and their character, when they have alterations and inaccuracies, it can negatively impact the biopic for the viewer or fans. The two most prominent examples are Bohemian Rhapsody and The Social Network

Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody was a monumental film for the genre of biopics. It won countless awards, garnered Rami Malek an Oscar, and brought a revival of appreciation and love for the band Queen and their music. The film was also released before Queen and Adam Lambert went on tour, so the film certainly helped in those regards. Obviously not every aspect of a person’s life can be shown accurately while being a marketable film, so there are truths that have to be told differently or omitted to benefit the film. This can be an amicable choice, or one that is a deficit to the film. It was determined by Life is Beautiful, a visual blog dedicated to recording the accuracy of biopics scene by scene, the film had a 79.9% score of accuracy.

When it comes to the film’s inaccuracies, while there aren’t a glaring amount, they can negatively affect one’s view of the film after learning the truth. In reality a lot of the truths that the film hides are much sadder and poignant, and alter how one might view Freddie as a person. 

Bohemian Rhapsody depicts Freddie Mercury’s beginnings as Farrokh Bulsara, the son of two Parsi immigrants, born in Zanzibar and schooled in Bombay before they lived in the UK. He legally changed his name to Freddie in 1970. The film presented Freddie’s family as that of immigrants who escaped the revolution in Zanzibar with only “the clothes on their backs,” when in reality, the family was quite privileged due to Freddie’s father’s job and were given 6 months to leave the country. 

One of the largest conflicts of the film is Mercury’s desire to go solo, but it’s been said by the band members that there were always conflicts. Mercury also wasn’t persuaded to go solo by John Reid, as the film depicts. John Reid wasn’t even involved with the band at the point of this decision. The others also had wishes to pursue solo projects as well. 

The film also made Mercury seem to be a main source of conflict and contention within the band, when in reality the fights that the band found themselves in usually were a lot more complicated and involved all members. Freddie seemed easily manipulated and somewhat egotistical at these points in the biopic, altering how one may view Freddie’s character without knowing the truth. 

Another inaccuracy is that of Mercury’s love life with Jim Hutton. Jim Hutton was a dedicated partner to the singer until the end. The way they were actually introduced was at the nightclub Heaven in London, their first two meetings a deal of time apart. The first time Mercury offered Hutton a drink, when he promptly turned him down. 

They didn’t meet again for a year and a half, when Live Aid was just about to happen. It was then that Hutton accepted and the two began seeing each other. This can all be found in Jim Hutton’s biography, Mercury and Me. In Bohemian Rhapsody, the two have a one-off encounter and Freddie finds him through a phone book, showing up randomly at his house. It makes the relationship seem a lot less genuine, and almost creepy when framed that way. 

In the film, we also see Mercury invite Hutton over to his family’s house for tea, making it clear to the both of them that they were in a relationship. While it is unknown if Hutton ever met the family, Freddie never came out to them. Freddie was very private about this aspect of his life, and it’s a shame that these struggles and decisions couldn’t have been shown through a more personal and multi-faceted lens. 

With the event Live Aid, Mercury actually did not want to participate in it originally. The film presents this as his idea, but he actually had to be convinced. Mercury also didn’t tell the band members about his diagnosis officially until 1989, not right before the performance. This takes away the emotional significance that the film created for the event, although the members have said they all came to their own conclusions beforehand. 

The film seems to make everything that Mercury struggled with, his sexuality and his identity, all right by the time of his death, but in reality it wasn’t so. There were a lot of things that Mercury still didn’t want to share, or be open about, but his death and AIDS diagnosis put a lot of that out in the open. For those who want a true understanding of Freddie Mercury, the film is definitely wishy-washy in that regard due to its inaccuracies. A more genuine source and study of him can be found in Jim Hutton’s Mercury and Me.

The Social Network 

Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody, this film is about someone who is still alive. The Social Network details Mark Zuckerberg’s college life, the formation of Facebook, and the personal fallouts and lawsuits that took place. On the visual blog Life is Beautiful, the film was granted a 76.1% score of accuracy. 

When faced with scrutiny about the screenplay, writer Aaron Sorkin said to New York Magazine, “I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be storytelling. What is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy’s sale, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?” The film was received positively, and won Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Score, so the film definitely had the good part down. 

While the film is not totally inaccurate by any means, the film certainly buffs dislike for Mark Zuckerberg with its omissions and exaggerations. Co-founder of Facebook Eduardo Saverin said himself that the film was clearly meant to be “entertainment” and not fact based. A lot of the film can be compared to the book that the film was adapted from originally, The Accidental Billionaires

David Fincher’s The Social Network certainly dramatized events for sake of entertainment, especially when it came to Saverin and Zuckerberg’s relationship before their fallout and lawsuits. Little changes, like Zuckerberg not picking Saverin up from the airport when asked, the amount that Saverin’s Facebook shares were diluted down to, jealousy from Zuckerberg, all were made for the sake of entertainment and definitely villainize Zuckerberg further.

With The Social Network, a seemingly small change had a great impact on the film and the truth. A key point the film makes is that Zuckerberg was obsessed with being involved in Final Clubs while being at Harvard University. In the opening scene of the film Mark talks about how he wishes he was on the rowing team so he could be included, which he did in real life at boarding school. 

These clubs are presented as the social event that everyone wants to get into, with Zuckerberg severely scorned by not getting invited to the elite club while Eduardo does. This exclusion even leads to him setting up his friend and co-founder in an article for the school, saying that Eduardo was involved in animal cruelty during one of the club’s weird rituals. In reality, these clubs were not the blowout parties the film presents them as, and Saverin or the Phoenix Club he was in was never mentioned in an article. 

A major character in the film, an ex of Zuckerberg’s named Erica, never actually existed at all. Zuckerberg had a different girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, and was with her only at the time. Her character is crucial to the film, as she humbles and berates Zuckerberg in the opening scene as she is breaking up with him. She tells him that he is exhausting to be with as a partner. The breakup seems to send Zuckerberg into a spiral, and remains a string in the narrative until the very end, with the last scene of the film being Zuckerberg requesting Erica as a friend on Facebook. 

With Erica’s inclusion and Priscilla’s exclusion, Mark seems obsessed with girls and his popularity with them. The Accidental Billionaires presents Mark in an opposing light, as a gifted person who just wanted to create something. It was never about girls for him, or anything superficial like that, the book argues. While the film did get Mark’s antisocial personality, the overall nature of the lawsuits, and timelines correct, the film includes nonexistent conflicts and characters that alter how one would view his character in real life. 

Both Bohemian Rhapsody and The Social Network are successful biopics that handle popular and well-known subject matter, focusing on the lives of people that have been in the public eye. These biopics take creative liberties for the betterment of the films, making them more entertaining. Character flaws, conflicts, and storylines that are added or taken away don’t give the viewer the full picture. If one looks into the truths told, the way these people and stories are presented can be viewed in a negative light as a result.

The Social Network (2010) Official Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Madelyn Whelan attends Merrimack College and studies English with a concentration in creative writing, with a minor in interdisciplinary film studies. She wants to be an author, focusing on fiction and poetry. After graduation, she wants to go on to get her master’s degree in creative writing.