Should Martin Luther King Get The Big Screen Treatment?
Biopics are a mainstay in Hollywood and popular culture at large. From Malcolm X and Jim Morrison to the Notorious B.I.G., everyone and his mama seems to have a film about his life. Justin Bieber (whose career is only one full-length album deep) and Soulja Boy (yes, Soulja Boy) both have biopics in the works as we speak.
This incredible fact begs one question. Why has there never been a film about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?
One of the nation’s most celebrated heroes, Dr. King certainly has earned historical significance throughout the world. And while there have been made-for-TV films about him, he’s never hit the box office.
Some may argue he’s too beloved and important to be touched but I don’t believe anything is so sacred in Hollywood. It seems someone would at least give it a try by now. Obvious questions arise, of course. Who would play him? On what sources would the screenplay be based? Which parts of his life should be included and what should be left out? What is there about Dr. King that a film would make more clear?
If a film was to accurately depict the personal and intellectual development of Dr. King from childhood and beyond, we might see movie magic (not to mention the world’s next great leaders may be inspired). It’d be great to see his personal life. What was he like as a family man? Display for the world the great sense of humor he is said to have and juxtapose that with the courage, strength and danger that so visibly took place throughout his career.
Any film on Dr. King’s life would also need to depict the tough struggles and defiant opposition King faced throughout the civil rights movement, his work to help the poor, and his controversial thoughts on the Vietnam War. When we look back on his life, it’s easy to gloss over these things and make it seem as though his words and poise always worked absolute miracles.
Last but certainly not least, any film on Dr. King should take an inquisitive and honest look into the connection between the federal government and his assassination. King was monitored by the federal government (and some suspect he may have been a target of COINTELPRO) and even labeled “the most dangerous Negro” by the FBI.
Of course, it would be extremely difficult to do justice to a life that still means so much to us all. Whoever ends up playing the lead role would have serious work to do and would probably face a level of scrutiny unprecedented for any other film. However, the story of Dr. King is a story that should be told, as completely as possible, over and over again.
Besides, even if it falls short of glory, I’m sure it’ll be better than that Soulja Boy flick.