The Squeakyclean Biopic 2009: Notorious Big

The squeakyclean biopic

Notorious BIG and Richard Nixon are the latest nasty characters to be sanitised for the silver screen.
Why do we put up with it ‘Not a very nice man’ … Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious BIG. Photograph: Everett Collection / Rex Features It’s pretty standard practice these days when a public figure dies – or even a friend or relative – that the negative aspects of their lives are quickly papered over and a condensed, sanitised version of their personality is created. The fact that death offers up this standardised redemption for all but society’s most despicable characters is both entirely understandable and rather comforting – I’d certainly much rather be remembered for a few weeks of semi-mandatory charity work during my A-levels, say, than the years of indolence and selfishness that have followed it. If we take a look at these same lives being expressed in art, however, we expect a modicum more truth than we would from a great aunt’s eulogy or a newspaper obituary. When you read a biography of a historical figure you don’t want the bowdlerised version – you want it all. While Harvey Milk, as a man who put his life on the line to fight for other people’s rights, probably deserves such treatment, it’s the cases of Frost/Nixon and Notorious that are most troubling in their attempts to rewrite history. Christopher Wallace, aka Notorious BIG, was a violent misogynist, a criminal and – although his talent is not in question – clearly not a very nice man. Meanwhile, Nixon was not only but a president largely responsible for the Vietnam war. Why is it, then, that both are presented as affable, charming, misunderstood rogues Are we as an audience completely unable to accept a film based around an unsympathetic character I watched both films in the company of friends largely ignorant of the real lives of the men in question and was troubled by their final impressions. Notorious also managed to completely whitewash any controversy involving . Although the truth behind those events may never be fully revealed, the fact that audiences new to BIG’s life have been convinced that he was completely innocent of any wrongdoing is nothing more than the wool being pulled over their eyes in fact, the case is far from closed.
How many biopics have you seen that follow the same basic formula Subject will have some kind of traumatic event in their early life that explains the bad behaviour in the middle of their lives. This bad behaviour will usually lead to Subject alienating their old friends and/or family. They then receive some kind of redemption in the final act so we know that, had they lived, they would have made amends for all the wrongs in their lives. Are people really similar enough to have their stories told in such similar ways Surely the spectrum of human personality extends far beyond flawed genius. Also, if there’s no such thing as a simple, “bad” person, then surely there’s no such thing as a good one either.

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