Sidelong Glance Biopic

"This isn't my father's story. Well, it is, but he's not telling it."
Nick Flynn, Being Flynn

So you're finally getting that biopic made, but you're having some trouble. Maybe your subject is very controversial, maybe there are multiple conflicting accounts of his/her life, or maybe he's just too obscure for the average audience. How do you accquaint your viewers with the subject? You create a co-star and use him as the Audience Surrogate. This is a Sidelong Glance Biopic, so called because it is either unwilling or unable to look the subject straight in the eye.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing, because in many cases the subject of a biopic might not be alive or is in some other way unable to participate in a movie based on his/her life. Using the perpsective of a friend or family member associated with the subject allows a filmmaker to gain details of someone's life without having to ask them directly and to show how their actions impact the lives of others. Besides, when you want to learn the truth about someone, that someone is usually the last person you should ask.

Due to the nature of their screenplays, these biopics more often than not tend to take advantage of Artistic License in their storytelling and are often less historically accurate. Also, if based on a secondary source (biography, memoirs, etc) the main character could easily be an Unreliable Narrator. Also often results in Billing Displacement, where the actor playing the subject is given top billing while the Audience Surrogate is given lower billing, despite usually having more screentime.

Compare First-Person Peripheral Narrator, which is a story is told in first person by a narrator who is not the main character.


Comic Books
  • Alan Moore's 2015 Providence is intended to be this for H.P. Lovecraft. It explores his life, his artistic influences, regional background and sociopolitical makeup in detail across 7 issues. Lovecraft himself finally appears on-screen in Issue 8.


Video Games