Based on a True(ish?) Story?

I recently attended a watch party for the Flint Lifetime movie with some of my friends that I work with, and it got me thinking. I am going abstain from giving my opinions about the movie itself, but it brought me to think about the larger idea of how Hollywood and other media outlets typically base their productions ‘on a true story’.

What does that even mean? Based on a true story?

I think originally it was supposed to mean that the movie or show, or novel was rooted in the factual account of a particular happening. Today, I think most people just ignore it, or laugh it off, and it almost implies a level of make believe.

I admit, some movies are actually based on true accounts, and do their diligence to (as accurately as possible) portray the story as truthfully as possible, but at what point does the finished product no longer deserve to bear the title? I feel that there should be a level of accuracy that must be met to be based on a true story, as it should imply a level of authenticity. However, I find the liberties that producers typical take blurs the line between fact and fiction and makes it difficult to know what is true and what isn’t.

I do not think the blame fully lies on the producer, as distinguishing between fact, fiction, and hyperbole is likely extremely difficult, especially with firsthand accounts. Take for instance a subjective story where two major characters have conflicting views about what happened, who did what, and the impacts they created. How do you incorporate their conflicting views into a show? How do you know what account is the ‘accurate’ account? I am not sure it is easy (or even possible) to do.

For me, this world is scary. The gray areas allow misinformation to disguise itself as fact. I enjoyed math as a kid because there was always a ‘right answer’ and at the most a couple ways to get there. When things become subjective they get messy, and I think there are few things messier than ethics.

3 Replies to “Based on a True(ish?) Story?”

  1. I thought this was an interesting post. I have not yet watched the Flint Water Movie; however, you are not the person who has mentioned that most it was not exactly based on the true events that took place. I also think that there should be certain level of authenticity when it comes to claiming that a movie is based on a true story. As I have grown up, I have come to realize that everything mentioned in the media and entertainment industry is slightly tweaked in order to make the story more dramatic. In doing this, the industry increases their profits. Like you mentioned above, the gray areas in our world are filled with misinformation and I unfortunately don’t foresee that changing any time soon.

  2. The horror films Annabelle and The Conjuring are based on a true story. These movies are about supernatural things, dolls possessed by a demon or scary monsters lurking in the darkness. I can’t say I’m an expert in the paranormal, but I’m skeptical when horror movies say based on a true story and involve monsters and magic. The fact that it is only “based on” could mean anything. A single idea or concept could be taken from a real story, like the doll in Annabelle, but other events actually portrayed in the movie could be from the director’s imagination.
    If you were to watch a movie adaptation of a book, those movies are based on an actual book that has a defined plot, characters, and events. This does not mean the movie will stay true to the book, it is only based on the book.
    How much is taken from the book or story and how much is embellished and stretched is left for the person making the movie.

  3. Thank you for your sharing. It also made me to think how much of the truth lies in a “Based on a True Story”. All stories have to be adapted in order to make it attracting and surging in audience‘s mind. However I have no idea of how to quantify the degree of adaptation. Because we don’t know the amount of impact for the whole things. It’s based on our feeling and whether we like it or not.

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