Should You Write Screenplays That Rewrite History?

Here is a screenwriting question for you about screenplays that rewrite history.

True or false?

1. The Cuban Missile Crisis was solved by the X-Men
2. Abe Lincoln was a vampire hunter
3. Jane Austen wrote about zombies

If you rely on movies and novels for your information, you might say ‘true’ to all of the above (due to “X-Men: First Class,” “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “Pride and Prejudice With Zombies,” for both of the latter, the books have been published, the movies are on the way).

screenplays that rewrite history

If you’re writing one of these mashups of history and fiction, do you have any responsibility to the truth? There has been some backlash to the X-Men prequel from people worrying that kids might assume that the Cuban Missile Crisis was all about mutants rather than Kennedy and Khrushchev.

A New York Times article stated that the producers of the Lincoln film are faithful to history—except for the part about vampires.

The premise is that vampires killed Abe’s grandfather and mother so he vows to kill all the evil beings. And he wears a really cool long coat in which he can hide vampire-slayer weapons.

Frankly, the people who are relying on these for history lessons probably aren’t going to know what happened anyway.

I don’t think it’s any worse than making movies in which dinosaurs and humans exist at the same time.

Your responsibility is to be entertaining. And maybe—just maybe—a few people who see X-Men will look up the real story and some who read Pride and Prejudice With Zombies will also turn to the original, the one without the zombies.

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ARTICLE BY Jurgen Wolff

Jurgen Wolff has written more than 100 episodes of television, the mini-series “Midnight Man,” starring Rob Lowe, the feature film “The Real Howard Spitz,” starring Kelsey Grammer, and as been a script doctor on projects starring Eddie Murphy, Michale Caine, Kim Catrall and others. His books include “Your Writing Coach” (Nicholas Brealey Publishing) and “Creativity Now!” (Pearson Publishing). For more tips from Jurgen Wolff, grab this screenwriting resource.