Does Art Need Truth? My Concerns With The Social Network

A new editorial on film is up at www.greenspotblue.com.  Here is an excerpt from the beginning:

In 2006, when Oprah attacked James Frey about his book, A Million Little Pieces, many of us in the arts stood behind her in the attack.  It was deserved. He was changing his life, not only to increase the drama, but to make something more of himself than was actually true. Oprah said she felt “really duped” and went on to talk about how he betrayed millions of readers.

That episode in literary history haunts me and begs the question when the subject of a story is still living, who owns that story? Who owns that life? And who is to say what changes can be made for the sake of a book or a movie?

In 2002, the Academy awarded A Beautiful Mind with an Oscar for Best Picture. A film based on the life of John Nash; and, like A Million Little Pieces, changes were made in the life of Nash for the sake of drama. At the time, I remember reading the book that the film was based on and being floored by the differences in the main character and his life. Yet, instead of questioning his writing integrity in an Oprah-attack fashion, the Academy decided to award Akiva Goldsman for these changes with a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

Now it is 2011, and we are still unclear about what is acceptable to do around a living person’s biography. This year, one of the frontrunners for the Best Picture Oscar is The Social Network, and again moments in living people’s lives were changed for the sake of drama.

You can read the rest of the editorial here.

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