A family member near and dear to me believes it’s a non-issue. I respectfully disagree.
You have a movie that promotes itself as being “Based On” or “Inspired By” an actual event. What is the expectation? For me, it’s “We’re telling you a true story.”
How true? Therein lies the difficulty. Because it’s not exactly clear. This is not like some fast food beef patty that, in order to call itself a “beef patty”, is required to contain a legal prescribed minimum percentage of beef. That may not even be true, but if it isn’t, it should be. My point is there’s a line.
With “Based On” and “Inspired By” movies, there is no line that apparently exists. And, according to my near and dear family member, there does not need to be. Why? Because,
“It’s a movie.”
That much, I will acknowledge. It is a movie.
It’s a movie that’s selling itself in a particular manner. We are told,
It depicts an actual event.
It’s not like any movie. It’s not The Hangover or Avatar, which are
“Based on ideas we believed would sell a lot of tickets.”
When you, or at least I, attend a movie telling the story of an actual historical occurrence, you, or at least I, go in with a specific expectation:
That what I’m about to see up there on the screen more or less, and not much less,
This, apparently, is an unjustified expectation. Why? Because,
“It’s a movie.”
That’s their “Get out of jail free” card. And I’m telling you, it’s a slippery slope if ever I slid down one. Using that non-standard standard, essential elements may be entirely absent. Imagine going to a restaurant, which touts as being “Inspired By ‘Ocean Front Seafood’”, except they don’t sell any fish in it.
“How exactly is this like a fish restaurant?”
“Well, we have tables, chairs, a waiter, food and the check. The only thing missing is the fish.”
Would you put up with that? I wouldn’t. They’re selling something they’re unquestionably not delivering. Which, in my mind, constitutes fraud.
“Not in this case.”
“Because it’s a movie.”
“Look. When you go to a movie that advertises itself as being ‘Based on an Actual Event’, there’s an expectation…”
“There is not.”
“Because – and I’ve mentioned this before, I believe three time, the third time not ten second ago –
“It’s a movie.”
“But they’re lying to the public!”
“In what way? The movie was based on an actual event. They just didn’t say how much it was based on an actual event.”
“To me, that’s blatant misrepresentation.”
“This has been going on for centuries. Is Hamlet ‘blatant misrepresentation’?”
“Probably, I don’t know. But I know this. The first line in Hamlet is not:
‘Based on actual events in Danish history.’”
“It’s exactly the same thing.”
“Not living in the Middle Ages anymore, we expect stories based on actual events to have a substantial level of credibility. In The King’s Speech, King George sees the speech therapist years later that he actually went, he fiercely resists him, and he is later shocked to discover that his teacher had no medical training. The research indicates that King George knew his teacher wasn’t a doctor, and after their very first session with him, he went away brimming with confidence. This isn’t minor tinkering. Basic elements of reality have been blatantly misrepresented.”
“Why did they do that?”
“ Are you familiar with ‘Artistic license’? ‘The king goes for help with his stammer, and he gets it.’ What kind of a story is that?”
“Fine. Tell a good story. But don’t mislead the moviegoer. Instead of ‘Based on An Actual Event’, have the Opening Title say,
‘The following story happened. Just not this way.’
‘Based on events that were less compelling than the ones we changed them to.’
‘A True Story. Except for the facts.’”
“Are you finished now?”
“Yes. (A BEAT) No! They’re having it both ways – they’re pulling the audience in with the expectation of seeing something factual, then they hide behind ‘artistic license’ to deliver something that’s been inspired by, what The King’s Speech screenwriter calls, ‘informed imagination.’ There is something wrong with that, and it really pisses me off.”
Okay, now I’m finished.