Quantity over quality is  Hollywoods motto when it comes to celebrity biopics.
‘Quantity over quality’ is Hollywood’s motto when it comes to celebrity biopics.
Mya Vo (she/her)

Celebrity biopics are starting to feel gross

Trigger warning: This article discusses sexual assault, abortion, drug use and death. 

From Elvis to Oppenheimer, Hollywood has spent the past few years churning out biopic after biopic. However, some recent, less tasteful biopics have people wondering if they should even be a thing. 

“Pam & Tommy,” starring Lily James and Sebastian Stan, a Hulu biopic series about the infamous Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee sex tape fiasco, came out in 2022. At first, “Pam & Tommy” was well-received by audiences and critics, but after Anderson criticized the series for being inaccurate and hurtful, saying “I refuse to watch it,” in an interview with Variety, people began to view it and its genre in a new light. 

Shortly after “Pam & Tommy” came “Blonde” starring Ana de Armas, a biopic about Marilyn Monroe. Before “Blonde” even came out, audiences were wary of it. People noticed that the film had an NC-17 rating and speculated that the more disturbing aspects of Monroe’s life, such as sexual assault, abortion, and substance abuse, would be prominently featured. Unfortunately, these suspicions were correct, and the movie bombed as a result, receiving a 5.5/10 on IMDb and 42% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Much like “Pam & Tommy,” “Blonde,” received criticism for its inaccuracies. Instead of Monroe’s actual life, “Blonde” is based on a book, which the author, Joyce Carol Oates, describes as a work of fiction. Content creators on TikTok tore into “Blonde,” claiming its focus on Monroe’s sexual trauma, as well as the graphic nature of the sexual assault scenes in the film, were disturbing and tasteless. 

One controversial scene in the film depicts former president John F. Kennedy sexually assaulting Monroe, even though Monroe never accused Kennedy of sexual assault when she was alive, and there is no evidence that such a thing happened. Viewers wondered why it would even occur to the film’s creators to reenact the sexual assault of a real person for people to watch as entertainment. The fact that this particular assault has no evidence of ever having happened further supports the notion that this scene exists to entertain rather than inform. 

“Blonde” and “Pam & Tommy” has many people questioning whether biopics, especially ones so heavily dramatized, should be so normalized. The success of recent biopics like “Elvis” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” have Hollywood itching to make more. Unfortunately, these biopics’ often apparent cash-grab nature and frequent inaccuracies make audiences sick of them. The terrible ratings “Blonde” got compared to more accurate and sensitive biopics like “Bohemian Rhapsody” is evidence of this. 

In the past few months, word has gotten around that a biopic about Amy Winehouse titled “Back to Black,” starring Marisa Abela, is in the works. Although Winehouse’s family and estate have voiced their support for the film, prospective audiences wonder if she would have felt the same. 

During her life, Winehouse suffered a Britney Spears-like level of harassment from the press and public, going so far as to pursue a high court anti-harassment injunction to stop the paparazzi from continuing to stalk her. This harassment contributed to Winehouse’s struggles with mental health and substance abuse, which led to her death by alcohol poisoning in 2011. 

Considering the devastating effects of Winehouse’s fame, making a movie about her over a decade after her death and amplifying that fame even more feels ironic. The same goes for Monroe, who endured similar hardships to Winehouse, having been harassed by the media to the point where fans and historians accredit her suicide to her struggles with fame. 

In a perfect world, all celebrity biopics would be like “Rocketman,” starring Taron Egerton (about Elton John (he/him)). John gave full consent for “Rocketman” and collaborated with its creators to ensure accuracy. Because John worked on the film, audiences felt comfortable watching it, knowing that he consented to sensitive aspects of the film, such as a sex scene involving him (as played by Egerton). 

On the other hand, with biopics like “Pam & Tommy,” which tell the stories of people who are still alive, ‘main characters’ like Anderson can voice their opinions on the film and point out inaccuracies where there are any. Though celebrities could also sue the creators of unauthorized biopics, it isn’t illegal to make a movie about a public figure. Of course, the celebrity could sue for defamation, but the standards for a defamation charge in this context are very high. Celebrities have few ways to combat unauthorized/inaccurate biopics, and dead celebrities like Winehouse have almost none. 

The debate around celebrity biopics doesn’t have to exist. Biopics wouldn’t be a problem if their creators would do proper research before writing a movie/TV show about a real person’s life.  It’s also crucial that the people behind celebrity biopics wrap their heads around the fact that just because a celebrity may have endured sexual assault doesn’t mean they should use a graphic scene depicting that assault to let their audience know it happened. If they want to make a movie about a dead celebrity, they can, but they have to ensure the story they’re telling is accurate and tasteful since that person isn’t alive to correct them.

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Hope Rasa (she/her), Web-Editor-in-Chief
Senior Hope Rasa is back for her third year on the Nordic News staff as Web-Editor-in-Chief. In her limited spare time, Hope enjoys reading, writing, knitting, needlepoint, hiking, and listening to music. While on Nordic this year, Hope hopes to improve her writing skills, learn more about journalism, and help make this website become the best it can be.
Mya Vo (she/her), Design Editor
Senior Mya Vo is a reporter for Nordic News during the 2022-2023 school year. Her goal this year for Nordic is to learn more about writing articles and to help out the Nordic team. Outside of school, she enjoys reading fiction books, watching cooking shows, and staying home to relax.

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