Friday, September 24, 2010

Truth or Cheap Shots

How much of 'The Social Network' is truth and how much is sensationalist fiction? Do we have the right to pump up the details of a living person's life, without their endorsement, in order to boost the entertainment (and box office) value of a movie? Should we cash in on anyone's life if the story we're telling isn't true? If a person becomes a billionaire does that mean he or she forfeits their basic rights against slander?

Guardian looks at the issue:

No doubt, the movie, by West Wing scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin, is great entertainment. In one scene, Zuckerberg's associates attend a party in which teenage girls offer lines of cocaine off their ample bosoms. But its relationship to the truth is dubious – Facebook's corporate spokespeople describe it as "fiction". The cocaine scene, film researchers told the New York Times, was one of several sequences that were "mostly made up". Zuckerberg has flatly denied other elements, including his supposed efforts to gain entry to elite Harvard social clubs.


There's something insidious about this genre of scriptwriting, which has plenty of precedents of one sort or another. Think of the 1998 movie Primary Colours, in which John Travolta played a morally dubious governor of a southern US state who philandered his way to the White House, in a thinly disguised, yet sensationalised, account of Bill Clinton's rise. Or even this year's Roman Polanski movie, The Ghost Writer, in which a former British prime minister and his wife, bearing startling similarities to Tony and Cherie Blair, are accused not only of complicity in torture and war crimes but of secretly acting on behalf of the CIA.

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