Quantifying truthfulness in films "based on a true story"

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/01/06/quantifying-truthfulness-in-fi.html


Wow, I’ll bet The Blair Witch Project scored really low.


No Fargo = fail.


I think they’re being too lenient with The Immitation Game.


If you go with “the absolute truth” on the drop-down it gets 18.6%, which seems better.


That still feels a little generous.


I didn’t watch The Imitation Game when it was on UK TV a day or so ago, because I’m fairly familiar with the source material and didn’t want to spend an evening shouting at a film.

It just occurred to me that I’m happy to watch and enjoy Amadeus, which is almost entirely fictional, because I just treat it as a play whose characters share names, job titles and a couple of characteristics with historical figures. Maybe it’s because Amadeus is a better piece: but how would I know?


Very nice. Could they please do cable channels next?


I think you’re right. Although fictional, it’s a better play/movie.

The Immitation Game is loaded with predictable clichés.


This scene is FALSE?


I don’t want to live anymore.


Truthiness, or lack thereof, is only part of the story. The bigger issue is how Hollywood changes the truth to suit mainstream narratives. In the case of Imitation Game, for instance, they largely denied Turing’s agency as a (relatively) open gay man (his friends all knew) and turned him into an Aspie weirdo.

I now try to avoid “based on real life” films because I know they will tend to slant towards a pro-hetero, pro-American, pro-empire viewpoint regardless of the real story. Central characters will be elevated and glorified…or smeared. Films produced by large corporations should be generally understood to be hero myths that play to our biases rather than exploring them.


That’s a great idea… I’d love to see Erin Brockovich. I know they just stapled a happy ending on it, because we need the feels and the goods for the end of a movie, but what about the rest? Too old?

Return of The Living Dead? I need to know! They did promise.


So, the infographic shows Selma being wholly true. But, when it came out, it was controversial for allegedly rewriting history to make LBJ a civil rights villain:

The makers of the new movie “Selma” apparently just couldn’t resist taking dramatic, trumped-up license with a true story that didn’t need any embellishment to work as a big-screen historical drama. As a result, the film falsely portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson as being at odds with Martin Luther King Jr. and even using the FBI to discredit him, as only reluctantly behind the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and as opposed to the Selma march itself.

In fact, Selma was LBJ’s idea, he considered the Voting Rights Act his greatest legislative achievement, he viewed King as an essential partner in getting it enacted — and he didn’t use the FBI to disparage him.

To be sure, that linked, quoted piece is biased and not without its critics; that “Selma was LBJ’s idea” is particularly hotly disputed, and other claims are open to debate (see this Amy Davidson New Yorker piece, for example) - but nonetheless, there is controversy about the accuracy of the film that the infographic doesn’t reflect.

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