The problem with unsolicited biopics

3 mins read

Biographical pictures, or biopics, are detailed accounts of someone’s experiences, often dramatised for the screen. They are usually based on a real person who has authorised their story to be turned into a film. Or so they should be.

The problem starts when these stories are stolen. Filmmakers will cash in on a story, often ones of hardship, and make millions while the real person doesn’t receive a penny. 

The Blind Side (2009)

One example is the story of Michael Oher. Oher is a former NFL player who was adopted by the Tuohy family. 

The Blind Side (2009) tells the story of how the family helped Oher overcome his personal struggles to achieve excellence in American football. The seemingly rags-to-riches story has often come under fire for using white saviour narratives.  

Pictured: Quinton Aaron as Michael Oher in The Blind Side. Image Credit:

However, the biggest problem lies with the real Oher. He now claims that the family tricked him into signing over control of his finances to them. He has said that he never made any money from the film and is rightfully angry about this. 

The Blind Side raked in over £237m at the global box office, millions more on DVD and home video sales and won Sandra Bullock an Oscar. This film would not exist without Oher’s own story, and yet he hasn’t been compensated. 

Oher released a memoir in 2011 and also recently filed a petition against the Tuohys for keeping his money from him. 

But Michael Oher is not the only victim of unsolicited biopics. 

Image Credit:

Pam and Tommy (2022)

Pamela Anderson has suffered with the release of the Hulu series, Pam and Tommy (2022). It follows Anderson and her ex-husband Tommy’s relationship and married life. 

The real Anderson was never consulted about this series and expressed her upset over the series. Anderson then responded to the series with her own documentary. Released in 2023, Pamela, a love story, is a recall of her life events, told from her perspective. 

We have seen several other similar instances, sadly of women who are no longer here to defend themselves. Spencer (2021) on Princess Diana, Blonde (2022) on Marilyn Monroe, and not yet released biopic on Amy Winehouse, titled Back to Black. 

Unsolicited biopics are complex matters of cinema. Coming under the guise of celebrating and commemorating people’s stories, biopics can sometimes shed light on a hidden hero. However, sometimes they can feel like cash grabs that benefit from experiences of the vulnerable. 

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Second year student journalist studying Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Journalism Studies.
Writer for Brig and Discovery Music

Second year student journalist studying Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Journalism Studies.
Writer for Brig and Discovery Music

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