5 Movies And Shows That Are Secret Autobiographies
Movies are often packed with their creators' personal issues, like landfills for neuroses. Kubrick was obsessed with bathrooms, and we're pretty sure Wes Anderson was attacked by a symmetrical dollhouse at some point during his childhood. As we've mentioned once or twice, Hollywood people (including actors, directors, and even those lowly writers) sometimes sneak shockingly autobiographical tidbits into their work in ways you wouldn't notice unless someone pointed them out. So let's point them out ...
The Mission: Impossible Movies Mirror The Story Of Tom Cruise And Scientology
The world has seemingly fallen in love with the Mission: Impossible movies for their intricate plots, fun characters, and how they're the closest we'll ever get to Tom Cruise starring in a bunch of Jackass movies. But bizarrely, if we look at the series as a whole, it seems to chart Cruise's (also bizarre) real-life story.
The first Mission: Impossible adds a layer of meta commentary by revealing that the villain was the TV series' hero, Jim Phelps. The star of the movie literally has to kill the star of the old show -- and as we've mentioned, they originally went after the original actor to play that role. To put that in perspective, that would be like if Spider-Man: Homecoming featured Tom Holland stabbing Tobey Maguire to death.
The second movie ... was about rock climbing or something. No one is truly sure. But then Mission: Impossible III gets conspicuously personal. The same year Cruise famously married Katie Holmes found Ethan Hunt also getting married.
Ethan's fiancee learns the truth about him by the end of the movie, but it still ends happily, as they get married and he whisks her back to IMF headquarters -- which feels like she's being recruited by some kind of secret society. Or a super cool religion, if you will.
At this point it really starts to feel as though the IMF has become a metaphor for the Church of Scientology. In order to marry Ethan, Julia has to be indoctrinated into the IMF. Similarly, Holmes had to take Scientology courses before marrying Cruise. The fourth movie, which came out only a year before Holmes officially filed for divorce, reveals that Ethan and Julia aren't together anymore, because the IMF has come between them -- echoing rumors that Holmes left with their daughter because of Scientology. This is still nicer than the original plan to simply have Julia die offscreen between movies.
Next came Rogue Nation, released in 2015, the same year as a little documentary called Going Clear. Right as the most culturally resonant criticism of Scientology to date came out, the IMF was suddenly put on trial.
In the end, the IMF gets let off the hook because everyone realizes how awesome they are. If you're still skeptical, replace the word "Syndicate" with "Thetan" and see how quickly it all falls into place.
Michael Bay Was Adopted, And All Of His Dumb Movies Are About Surrogate Dads
We're guilty of dumping on famed director Michael Bay occasionally in the past, partly because his movies veer toward mostly being incomprehensible garbage, and partly because he seems like a raging hemorrhoid of a human being. In any case, maybe we're not being fair. We've never dug deep enough into the man's life to suss out how personal his giant robot dick-measuring contests are. Until now.
It turns out that Bay was adopted, and went in search of his birth parents when he was 20. He eventually found his biological mother, who suspected that his dad was none other than legendary filmmaker John Frankenheimer, who directed classics like The Manchurian Candidate and Ben Affleck-centric Christmas turds like Reindeer Games.
While a DNA test reportedly proved that Frankenheimer wasn't Bay's dad, two other cinematic giants became Bay's mentors: Jerry Bruckheimer and Steven Spielberg. They also became his surrogate "dads" (which sounds like an amazing premise for a sitcom). Knowing this backstory, it's hard not to notice that Bay's seemingly soulless flicks are often imbued with personal meaning -- using Mack truck explosions and scantily clad women to work through some of these issues. Most obviously, The Rock is about an awesome father figure (Sean Connery) bonding with a hyper, long-faced dumbass (Nicolas Cage).
Connery also reconnects with an estranged daughter, for good measure.
In Armageddon, the fatherless Ben Affleck clashes, then eventually connects, with his girlfriend's crusty pop, played by Bruce Willis. Hell, even Optimus Prime is basically Shia Labeouf's giant, shape-shifting dad. The Island follows a darker trajectory along the same theme, featuring Ewan McGregor as Lincoln Six Echo, who lives in an isolated community full of jumpsuits and nonsensical product placement. Lincoln's journey of escaping his home and learning the truth of his parentage mirrors Bay's own -- though, depressingly, Lincoln Six Echo discovers he's only a clone who was created so the real Lincoln has a backup supply of blood and organs. Naturally, he's not pleased.
His disappointment then leads to his self-actualization -- in this case freeing the clones, not hanging out with Steven Spielberg and the producer of Flashdance. But close enough.
The World's End Is About Simon Pegg's Battle With Alcoholism
After tackling zombies in Shaun Of The Dead and action movies in Hot Fuzz, director Edgar Wright and his frequent collaborator Simon Pegg turned to sci-fi with The World's End, the story of a pub crawl that collides with an alien invasion. By the end of the movie, it becomes apparent that Pegg's character, Gary King, isn't just looking to complete the "Golden Mile" in order to recreate the best night of his teen years; he's also a full-blown alcoholic. Think of it like Leaving Las Vegas with more murderous androids.
But there's more to it than that. Pegg recently revealed that the movie was his way of confessing his own struggles with alcoholism. He referred to his addiction as a "second head" that wants to put itself ahead of "everything else -- your marriage, children, your job." Which is almost exactly what happens in the movie. In the climax, King's desire to complete his drunken quest leads to an underground alien bunker, as drunken quests sometimes do. There he's confronted by his teenage self, a robot doppelganger who just wants to party, get drunk, and never deal with responsibility.
The sci-fi conceit offers a potent metaphor. Gary's compulsion to drink is a desperate attempt to cling to his youth, to feel things that are totally outside of his reality. By rejecting his young robo-self, Gary is turning his back on the false promises of his addiction. In the end, Gary gets sober, and rather than deny his past, he weaponizes it by enlisting the orphaned robot versions of his teenage pals to join him on his righteous path through an apocalyptic wasteland. So there, that's how you beat alcoholism. You're welcome, medicine.
Conan The Barbarian Is About Hippies Vs. Surfers (Like The Director)
Perhaps the best movie starring a future governor in a furry loincloth, Conan The Barbarian may be less about the Hyborian Age and more about the ancient age of the '60s and '70s. As pointed out by screenwriter Zack Stentz, the character of Conan very much feels like a "Muscle Beach bodybuilder" chilling out with his "Hapa surfer buddy."
Which maybe shouldn't be totally surprising. The movie was co-written and directed by Apocalypse Now screenwriter John Milius, who previously directed the surfing movie Big Wednesday, and once referred to surfing as his "religion." Did Milius' background as a Malibu surfer percolate into his Conan movie? Well, Conan does spend a lot of time working out on the beach ...
... and hanging out with his beach buddy, played by legendary real-life surfer Gerry Lopez.
And of course, there's plenty of free love.
The only problem is that they have to deal with goddamn hippies. As Milius himself pointed out, surfer culture was different than hippie culture, but the two kind of merged during the '60s. Then in the 1970s, the idealism of the hippie movement kind of imploded. Most pointedly, Conan, which was released in 1982, finds Conan rescuing a princess who's been taken in by what's clearly a hippie cult.
Likely not coincidentally, Conan came out just a few years after the Jonestown cult mass murder-suicide, making the movie a more potent allegory. The film is telling us that the only way to navigate the insanity of real life is through some kind of Zen surfer mentality, as embodied by a half-naked bodybuilder chopping people's heads off with a sword.
In Retrospect, Louie Was A Gross Confessional
It's not a secret that Louie was an autobiographical show. Louis C.K. played a divorced stand-up comedian of the same name, and who among us hasn't bought weed off of Jeremy Renner at some point in our youth? It always seemed obvious that he would pepper his real anecdotes with shocking stuff to keep things interesting and meet FX's "outrageous moment" quota. Unfortunately, in the wake of the New York Times piece that revealed what a gross creep C.K. has been, it looks like some of those shocking scenes were autobiographical too.
Kind of like how Cliff Huxtable being a gynecologist pretty much torpedoes every episode of The Cosby Show forever, Louie similarly features icky plot points that feel as if C.K. was offering up subtle clues to his godawful behavior. In one early episode, C.K. wrote a storyline wherein he has to vehemently defend masturbation, even going on Fox News to debate the issue.
Originally, this seemed like part of the show's absurdist humor. Why would someone have to defend masturbation to such an insane degree? Now we know the context behind why C.K. would feel the need to pen a storyline in which he would have to go on the defensive; he was constantly masturbating in front of non-consenting women, sometimes over the goddamn phone. His character's argument that "nobody gets hurt" retroactively feels like a rationalization for his real-world behavior.
Even more disturbingly, a later episode found Louie's' friend Pamela (whom he has an unrequited crush on) falling asleep on his couch. When she wakes up, her one-time non-sequitur now makes way more sense:
He then proceeds to force himself on her, trying to kiss her, which she resists:
It goes way beyond trying to kiss her. Even more horrifically, Louie tries to drag Pamela to the bedroom as she frantically grasps at a desk.
Then he grabs her from behind, in a straight-up attempted rape that wouldn't feel out of place on Game Of Thrones.
When she fights her way to the door, he blocks it, and won't let her leave until she kisses him.
It's a disturbing scene, and while we've not yet heard of any allegations of C.K. assaulting anyone physically, his aggressive disregard for women's space and safety to gratify his own sexual impulses is a constant among accounts of his behavior. The fact that he actually put that in his show would be like if Kramer routinely shouted the N-word, or if Phil Spector used gunshots for percussion.
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