Depicting a Life Less Ordinary: Fantasy as Evidence for Deconstruction in the Contemporary Film Biopic

Carolyn Ellam


This article evaluates the utilisation of fantasy in the contemporary, mainstream biopic as evidence for deconstruction from the classical generic form. By using Miss Potter (2006) as an illustrative case study, this paper interrogates the inclusion of fantasy in relation to wider trends in the biopic’s development. Drawing on James Walters’ definition of ‘interior fantasy’, I examine the representation of ‘real’ animated characters in Miss Potter that the central protagonist both talks to and interacts with. Through a combination of narrative and production analysis, I explore how and why fantasy elements are included in a film which, in all other aspects, represents a realist, albeit dramatised, depiction of the well-known British author Beatrix Potter. Central to this is a consideration of whether the use of fantasy conflicts with historical accuracy and factual account in portraying the subject’s ‘real-life’ story. It finds that the ‘interior fantasy’ as seen in Miss Potter ultimately represents an extension of the formal components typically associated with the biopic. More broadly, this article contributes to recent, revisionist critiques, by assessing the deconstructive tendencies of the modern mainstream biopic and re-considering its place within contemporary cinema.

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