Friday, July 29, 2011

Ficton Friday: Is This Real Life?

I forgot it was Friday.  I forgot I was supposed to write a blog.  So it's almost 11 pm, but that's still technically Friday, so I guess I'm still okay as long as I get this thing out before midnight!

I was watching a movie tonight (when I was supposed to be writing a blog).  It's probably my second favorite movie.  Shadowlands.  It's a movie based on the later life of C. S. Lewis, when he met and married Joy Gresham.  I love this movie 1) because it's about C. S. Lewis, 2) because it explores a lot of themes I appreciate--like pain, love, life, grief, and honesty (to name a few), 3) because it has amazing lines, amazing acting, amazing directing, and UH-MAY-ZING music, and 4) because it's a really sweet love story. 

But despite the words "This is a True Story" that flash across the screen near the beginning of the film, I realize that it's not really a true story.  Yes, it is based on actual events that happened in the lives of C. S. (Jack) Lewis, his friend and eventual wife, Joy Gresham, and her son, Douglas Gresham.  But it's highly dramatized to the point that "true story" isn't really a fair or accurate description.

I'm pretty much obsessed with C. S. Lewis, and I've read a few biographies (including my favorite one, which was written by Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham.  It's called Jack's Life, and I highly highly recommend it).  I know that Joy Gresham wasn't drop dead gorgeous like she was in the movie.  I know that she had two sons instead of just one.  I know a lot of random little details that aren't really that important--like the fact that Jack Lewis couldn't drive a car like he did in the movie, or that the honeymoon trip he took with his wife was much different than what happened in the movie. 

I like biographies about people I'm obsessed with, but otherwise, biography isn't my favorite genre.  Therefore, the only biographies I've really read are about Lewis, Rich Mullins, and Madeline L'Engle.  I have probably skimmed through some others, but I can only afford to have a few unhealthy obsessions with dead people. 

Memoirs, though, are different.  I really like them, if they're well-written.  I think my favorite is Rocket Boys (AKA October Sky).  Homer Hickam (the author of Rocket Boys) isn't all that interesting to me (in fact, I had to google him for his last name), but his story was interesting to me.  It was a "true story," but it wasn't a biography.  It was a memoir.  And memoirs are different because not all of the details have to be accurate.  It's okay to lie a little in the name of good literature.

I do the same thing--not so much with this blog, but I embellish things all the time in my socially awkward blog.  That's not to say I'm completely making stuff up, but I'll often exaggerate or add somewhat fictitious details to "true stories" to make them funnier or more interesting.  Storytelling is not the same thing as lying, and memoir is storytelling.  It's just storytelling that's based on something real. 

And I think that's why I can still appreciate Shadowlands so much.  I know the characters/events are exaggerated or altered from reality.  Watching/Reading a completely (or as close as they could get to it) accurate portrayal of someone's life would be boring (unless you're the sort who likes reading biographies).  There's really just no harm in watching a film or reading a book that's based on real people and real events, even if a lot of what happens to those people and events in the movie/book wasn't real.  I mean, I might be disappointed when I get to heaven and realize that C. S. Lewis and Anthony Hopkins are NOT the same person, probably won't matter at that point.

But I have to say that if I ever become a wildly famous author with a life tragic enough to make a movie out of, I really hope they get someone fabulous to portray me.  I'm thinking a younger version of Julianne Moore.  Because in my "based on a true story" movie, I'm SO going to have red hair.

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