Have you ever watched an inspiring movie of real events only to find out later that Hollywood had “enhanced” part of the story to make it more interesting? For many, watching a movie “based on a true story” means very little other than the fact that the characters in the movie might have existed (but in some cases, even this is not true!) While heartwarming and inspiring, some have become jaded to Hollywood’s portrayal of history, simply expecting that it will be embellished, exaggerated, or just completely made up.
Which is a shame because movies have the tremendous ability both to inform the public of important events and to shape the way we think about them. Art in general, actually, has always had this power. Look at Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle: the predecessor to the FDA was founded in large part due to the public outrage over the events depicted in the book! Almost everything we think about pirates came not from history but from the book Treasure Island. And what about our understanding of biblical events? For most, our conception of angels and demons, heaven and hell, and what God looks like (old guy with beard) comes straight from medieval art.
So much of our own worldview and imagination is formed by what we watch on screen, see in galleries, or read in books. Which presents an interesting question: who bears the greater burden of maintaining the truth, the one creating the art or the one consuming it?
That’s what Tito and I discussed with week on Everyday Liminality