Part Fiction

It used to be, back in the “olden days”, that movies telling the tale of something that happened in real life were taken as being completely factual. If it was in a movie and told from a historical perspective, it was basically believed to be true – the general public didn’t seem to question what was in the media. No one seemed to ask, “Could they be embellishing any of this?” And unless the person viewing it happened to be a scholar who was well-read on the subject matter at hand, nothing was apparently noticed.

Then in later years, it became necessary to make a distinction that the story had its origins in reality, so a film would display the movie’s title and then, either tacked on the end of the title or displayed seconds later, the words “A True Story”.

At some point, I suspect someone got sued or otherwise busted for using the “A True Story” claim because it was soon modified to “Based on a True Story.” This would indicate that while the story had its origins in real life, some liberties were taken with the content of the film for dramatic effect.

Eventually this wasn’t good enough either, giving way to “Inspired by a True Story”. Why “based on” was rejected and “inspired by” was suddenly all the rage is unclear. “Based on” indicates that the story followed the truth in parallel; “inspired by” seems to indicate the truth and the story intersect but only at various points.

Now the trendy tag is, “Inspired by True Events”. The withdrawal from “true story” to “true events” just sounds like giving up. A story has a beginning, middle, and end, thus a tale inspired by it would logically follow along those points. An event is an occurrence, an incident that stands alone without the context of a story. It is misleading to say a film was “inspired by true events”. One could conceivably claim “The Wizard of Oz” is a true story because it was “inspired by” a tornado in Kansas.