Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Loosely based on something that may or may not have happened at some point
Nowadays, it seems like every movie trailer I see comes with the claim that the film is "based on a true story." Just the phrase "true story" seems problematic enough, but I'm fascinated by our cultural obsession with authenticity. Like saying something is "based" on something real makes the movie better. I mean, one could argue that everything is loosely based on something true-- James Bond is loosely based on some British spy, Napoleon Dynamite is a composite of various teenage nerds that actually exist, and Clark Griswold is clearly based on everyone's well-meaning but hapless fathers.
So "The Haunting in Connecticut" claims to be based on true events. That could mean ANYTHING. It could just mean that once, someone thought a house in Connecticut was haunted. I have a theory that my refrigerator is haunted (it makes some seriously wack sounds and my cat won't go near it) but I'm not about to write a screenplay about it.
I wish we still valued straight-up imaginative stuff -- everything that comes out now on stage or on film is an adaptation of something already written/created or (supposedly) based on something real. There are movies based on plays (Frost/Nixon, Doubt), plays based on movies (Grey Gardens, Legally Blonde) plays based on movies based on books (High Fidelity), movies based on plays based on earlier movies (Hairspray), and even movies based on theme park rides (Pirates of the Caribbean).
The trend continues: in the 1990s, 27 films based on true stories were released. This decade, the count is up to 101 (source: Wikipedia). And that's not counting all the adaptations of stories from other mediums. Sadly, it seems like originality has become passé.