A Companion to the Biopic
Edited by Deborah Cartmell and Ashley D. Polasek
The most comprehensive reference text of theoretical and historical discourse on the biopic film
The biopic, often viewed as the most reviled of all film genres, traces its origins to the early silent era over a century ago. Receiving little critical attention, biopics are regularly dismissed as superficial, formulaic, and disrespectful of history. Film critics, literary scholars and historians tend to believe that biopics should be artistic, yet accurate, true-to-life representations of their subjects. Moviegoing audiences, however, do not seem to hold similar views; biopics continue to be popular, commercially viable films. Even the genre’s most ardent detractors will admit that these films are often very watchable, particularly due to the performance of the lead actor. It is increasingly common for stars of biographical films to garner critical praise and awards, driving a growing interest in scholarship in the genre.
A Companion to the Biopic is the first global and authoritative reference on the subject. Offering theoretical, historical, thematic, and performance-based approaches, this unique volume brings together the work of top scholars to discuss the coverage of the lives of authors, politicians, royalty, criminals, and pop stars through the biopic film. Chapters explore evolving attitudes and divergent perspectives on the genre with topics such as the connections between biopics and literary melodramas, the influence financial concerns have on aesthetic, social, or moral principles, the merger of historical narratives with Hollywood biographies, stereotypes and criticisms of the biopic genre, and more. This volume:
- Provides a systematic, in-depth analysis of the biopic and considers how the choice of historical subject reflects contemporary issues
- Places emphasis on films that portray race and gender issues
- Explores the uneven boundaries of the genre by addressing what is and is not a biopic as well as the ways in which films simultaneously embrace and defy historical authenticity
- Examines the distinction between reality and ‘the real’ in biographical films
- Offers a chronological survey of biopics from the beginning of the 20th century
A Companion to the Biopic is a valuable resource for researchers, scholars, and students of history, film studies, and English literature, as well as those in disciplines that examine interpretations of historical figures.