Who owns your life story and all its glory? You, or Hollywood?


Based on a true story. 

The five words Hollywood uses to rope in viewers are undeniably eye-catching. I know when I see these words in the description of an upcoming movie or show, my interest peaks 100 times more. I’ll find myself immediately googling the person the story is about to get more information: Who are they? Where did they come from? What makes them so interesting that Hollywood decided to retell their story… with or without their permission?

Legally, no one owns or has rights to the story of their life. This means that anyone can produce something about someone’s life without “permission” 

Granted, there is such a thing as Life Rights Agreements which grant permission to develop someone’s life story into some form of media and decrease the possibility of a lawsuit in connection with an adaptation, but nonetheless these aren’t always obtained.

A more recent example of this happens to involve “Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson and the Hulu series “Pam and Tommy.” Although the production team reached out to Anderson before they conducted filming and she said she did not want to be involved,. Anderson was open about her distaste in the series after it concluded. Social media users were also quick to criticize, highlighting that the retelling of the story without approval from Anderson is shocking. 

This all goes to say that although it might be legal to tell someone’s story without full permission, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is moral. Sure, someone like Anderson has her life completely out to the public. Moreover, all celebrities have their lives out for the public to see. But taking a traumatic event and turning it into media for box office sales is not morally defensible. 

This exact situation has happened to countless others, celebrities and non-celebrities alike. The Gucci family recently expressed they were not thrilled about “House of Gucci.” Michael Oher, NFL linebacker whose life story was adapted into “The Blind Side,” said he felt the movie portrayed him incorrectly. Families of victims had to relive traumatic moments and memories when the Ted Bundy movie “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” was released. The severity and morality of these instances are different in degree, but all in all someone’s story should not be used without permission. The effects go far beyond whether or not the retelling was a hit.

Know that the eight episode series “Pam and Tommy” is for mature audiences and viewer discretion is advised for the scenes and story it depicts.

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