Why I Hate Biopics

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Screenshot: BET (YouTube)

So the title is a lie.

Any list of my all-time favorite movies would include both Goodfellas and Malcolm X in it—both of which are biopics—and there many others that I’ve enjoyed watching. So, as a rule, I do not actually hate watching movies that are based on a real person’s life and the events that occurred during it. Me and the biopic can be friends.


What I hate, perhaps more than any non-sentient thing is nostalgia. I get bored with reminiscing, I get irritated with stories about how things used to happen during a time that I vividly remember, and I’d rather do colonoscopy prep than spend more time than necessary recollecting for recollection’s sake.

The reasons for this are simple. I think nostalgia—which is ultimately the process of looking back, settling in, and (sometimes) preferring those unreliable memories to the very real present and future—is dangerous. It clouds vision and makes people pathological liars. The reality of the thing you experienced or witnessed that you remember so fondly has been morphed by your positive feelings for it. Things didn’t really happen the way you remember them happening, but that doesn’t matter because the memory makes you smile. Nostalgia, essentially, is a mechanism for reverse engineering and altering reality, which doesn’t make it much different than a tweet from Trump.

Also, personally, I don’t want to relive shit. My childhood and teenager years were cool, I guess, but I stopped needing to feel the way I felt when I was 16 when I turned 17.

Anyway, what I hate is not the biopic. It’s the biopic based on people and acts I remember. Because the only purpose of them—when video footage and newspaper clippings and fresh-ass memories of the famous people depicted in them already fucking exist—isn’t to tell stories or to set the record straight. It’s to stir nostalgia. Which I hate.



King Beauregard

Something I’ve noticed, I don’t know if anyone else is the same: the strongest nostalgia I feel is for times when I wasn’t that happy. It’s almost like what I’m feeling is a wish I could do things over — almost.

Like, I did college from 1985 to 1989. It wasn’t a happy time in my life: a lot of work, a lot of stress, a lot of loneliness, a lot of self-loathing. I can’t say I miss those days, but it feels tragic that those days are gone.

One thing about college days was, it was also a time when all my choices were pretty open, as opposed to my current dotage, when I’m pretty much committed to a single track. It’s a pretty good track, and I can’t really complain. But I sometimes wonder what could have been.

There’s a word, “anemoia”, which is the sense of nostalgia for a time/place you never even lived in. For me it’s being a Medieval German farmer, and that makes no sense at all. Doubtless it’s got something to do with German lit classes, but holy hell, what exactly is to be gained by longing to use a big stupid pre-industrial scythe that doesn’t even come with a lightweight aluminum handle? Any given Medieval German farmer would think I live in Paradise, between the 24-hour convenience stores and air conditioning and porn that doesn’t require you to hide so you can watch Mathilda poop.

Two more things. One: the handle of a scythe has an actual name; it’s a “snath”. There’s a whole vocabulary around the parts of a scythe, like the tang and the beard and the chine. Two: here’s a video about the life of Scrooge McDuck, by a Finnish rock group: