Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I've recently coined this term to explain the problem found in many pieces of historical fiction, in particular scripts about significant figures in history. I call it B.R.A.S., which stands for Biopic Reach-Around Syndrome. It occurs when the writer holds his subject in too high a regard, and therefore spends the entire script attempting to jerk them off/perform cinematic fellatio on them.

It's always a significant point in history, and the people are always passionate, never doubt themselves, and come up with marvelous displays of their own brilliance. It's never, "a man walks into a bar and meets a friend for a drink". It's always, "Our hero walks into [insert name of famous bar] while the TV shows news coverage of [insert seminal moment in history] and meets [insert other famous figure]. They proceeded to be awesome together."

The writer puts his subject up on a pedestal, and so he/she ceases to be human. Then the story comes off flat, like it's kissing someone's ass. This format works fine when you're doing short reenactments for a History Channel documentary, but doesn't work for a movie.

The reason it happens so often is that movie scripts take a long time to write, so for a writer to devote the time to writing a biopic they have to like the person enough to devote months of their lives to writing a story about that person. Generally they hold this figure in high regard, and can't help but try and show them in the best light possible.

The other reason is that a lot of people in LA are star-fuckers. To them, a story is interesting if there are famous people in it, even if the story isn't very exciting to begin with. Going to Starbucks for a coffee isn't interesting, and these people agree. However, if you go to Starbucks for coffee and George Clooney is line in front of you, these people now think that's a fantastic story worth telling. And maybe it is worth telling to your co-workers when you sit back at your desk with your latte, but it's not something you should put in your memoirs, and it's definitely not something worth writing a movie about.

Plus a lot of biopic movies are M.O.W.'s on TV networks, which tend to have a lower quality of writing than more mainstream movies.

I'm not saying all biopics are like this, but the biopics that succeed are the ones that try to get at the truth of their subject, not jerk off to their memory on celluloid.

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