Enough of white male heroes

Enough of white male heroes
Oscar statuettes.

You can always tell that awards season is around the corner when biopics begin to flower. And the recent crop has been a particularly bountiful one.

They include Mike Leigh's Mr Turner, about English Romantic painter JMW Turner; Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent, about the iconic French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent; James Marsh's The Theory Of Everything, about English theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking; Morten Tyldum's The Imitation Game, about pioneering British code-breaker Alan Turing; Angelina Jolie's Unbroken, about American war survivor Louis Zamperini; and Tim Burton's Big Eyes, about American artist Margaret Keane.

It is easy to see the allure of the biopic for film-makers as they wrestle with the challenge of conveying a colourful subject's life in under three hours and actors have to evoke a known personality with sensitivity. Done well, such movies are an easy magnet for nominations and awards.

The Imitation Game is up for eight Oscars and The Theory Of Everything is up for five. Benedict Cumberbatch's Turing and Eddie Redmayne's Hawking have both been recognised with nods in the Best Actor category.

But while these movies can be absorbing in their own right, as a whole, they tend to stick to a tried-and-tested template.

For starters, the subjects are overwhelmingly male and white. They can be long dead, more recently deceased or still alive, active in science or arts, charming or tortured or arrogant, but they are united by gender and ethnicity.

To be sure, the list above is far from exhaustive and one can raise examples that point to a greater diversity than seems at first glance.

There is Ava DuVernay's Selma which, while not strictly speaking, a biopic, focuses on African- American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

Apart from Big Eyes, Jean-Marc Vallee's Wild also features a female protagonist, in this case, American writer Cheryl Strayed undertaking a physical and spiritual journey on a hiking trail.

Even then, there seems to be a definite bias when it comes to committing a person's life to celluloid.

Part of it stems from the way the biopic is often a movie about a person of accomplishment, be it in scientific reckoning, artistic endeavours or the political arena. And the cards are already stacked in the real world where men dominate, from women's fashion to theoretical physics.

Precisely because this is so, it is important for movies to tell more diverse stories.

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