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The morality of the biopic

Sep 14, 2022

On September 8, Andrew Dominik’s new film, “Blonde,” will hit theaters. Just a month later, Chinonye Chukwu’s “Till” will be released.

Where these films share little in their subjects, one glaring comparison can be found. 

Both Marilyn Monroe and Emmett Till experienced horrifying injustices throughout their lives. As more biopics are released every year, the morality of profiting from and displaying the trauma of others can be further questioned. 

Nowadays, every time I log onto Twitter, a new biopic is announced. Sam Taylor-Johnson just announced his new Amy Winehouse movie, “Back to Black”. 

It’s no wonder these movies are being made. Every year the Oscars are crowded with titles like “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Rocket Man”, “I Tonya”, “Tick, Tick, Boom”, “Elvis”, “King Richard”, etc.

Actors receive praising reviews for their ability to replicate such a recognizable figure. If the subject struggled with addiction or abuse? Even better! Imagine the tears; the acting chops utilized!

These movies also basically guarantee tickets sold. “I love Elton John!”, Americans say as they stuff their fists into a tub of popcorn. Hollywood easily profits off of nostalgia and fanhood. 

But have we gone too far?

First, it’s not like the world is necessarily starving for Marilyn Monroe content. 

Norma Jean & Marilyn, The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe, and Love, Marilyn are all adequate documentaries displaying Monroe’s life. 

Still, she’s an iconic figure in pop culture, so let’s make an NC-17 adaptation of a fictitious novel about Monroe. Yes, the new movie isn’t even a direct account of her life. 

With “Till”, it seems almost dystopian that the movie’s profits aren’t being donated anywhere. Maybe the filmmakers will subsidize Mamie Till-Mobley (Till’s mother) for providing first hand accounts of her traumatic experiences. 

Still, it feels so wrong that the profits of a story about child murder aren’t going towards organizations working to prevent these acts- especially when the problems discussed in the film are still incredibly prevalent. 

The fact is, Hollywood knows we love a car crash. They know viewers will want to watch a movie with grief, struggle, and horror because you can’t look away.

Still, we need to start challenging the exploitation of others’ trauma just to make a quick buck.

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