Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

OPINION: Consent is necessary when creating biopics

2022 © Netflix
Blonde. Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe.

Biopics are a popular form of media today, but with this popularity often comes backlash from people involved in these shows who were not consulted. When biopics are created, they often don’t take into account the opinions of those affected or should be involved.

When made without consent, biopics can have many negative impacts: they can harm reputations, ignore the desires of the person on whom the biopic is based, create unfair views or bias and exploit the struggles of the people involved, even posthumously.

One example is Pamela Anderson with the Hulu series “Pam and Tommy” about her and her ex-husband, Tommy Lee. She wrote a memoir and created a documentary about her life, but was upset at not being consulted on a show created about her. According to Harpers Bazaar “all it did was re-exploit her,” despite its attempt to “rehabilitate her image.”

She initially refused consent for the show to be made, but it was done against her will, as the topic of the biopic included traumatizing points in her life, including a sex tape from which Lee gained notoriety. In contrast, she experienced career-stifling misogyny.

“Pam and Tommy” is not the exception when it comes to biopics and sexism — biopics often display misogyny. Men typically support them, while women are usually more critical. Lee praised the film because the situation benefited his career, while Anderson emphasized that she was a survivor of her situation.

The Netflix biopic “Blonde” is based on a book mirrored after Marilyn Monroe’s life. It reduces Monroe to a symbol, stripping her of being a real person and making her into somewhat of a representation of Hollywood, which is essentially what was done to her when she was in the Hollywood sphere. 

The movie also exploits Monroe’s struggles, “mak[ing] an NC-17 spectacle of Monroe’s suffering, from sexual assault to pregnancy to addiction” according to Dexerto. Tragedies and suffering are accentuated significantly for celebrities, and it is exploitative and unethical to use these for entertainment, especially after a celebrity has died. 

Similarly, “Back to Black,” a biopic about Amy Winehouse, has already received backlash despite not being released yet. Her addiction and mental health were heavily publicized, and many find it to be exploitative to create a biopic about her struggles after her death.

However, when biopics involve the people on whom they are based, they are made in a way that is more ethical and doesn’t have a negative impact on the life or career of the subject. This way, certain topics can be approached in a way that appeases all parties.

An example of this is “Molly’s Game,” a biopic based on Molly Bloom who ran a poker ring that attracted the upper echelons of society, including mafia members and celebrities.

Bloom was a supporter of the film, as she was the one to suggest it and pitch it to the director. She also approved of Jessica Chastain’s performance as her. This type of biopic is the only way it should be done, with full support and cooperation with the subject.

Biopics are harmful when they exploit the struggles of a human who lives a highly publicized life. They should only be created with the cooperation and agreement of those who may be or have been affected by the subject.

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About the Contributor
Ellie Gregory, Staff Writer | she/her
Ellie is a freshman from Bedford, New Hampshire majoring in criminal justice. When she isn’t doing homework or writing an article, you can find her exploring Boston, reading, writing poetry or listening to Taylor Swift.

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