We need to stop perpetuating the awful myth that Thomas Edison was a brilliant inventor. We tell school kids that Edison invented the light bulb and other inventions. He didn’t, but he was good at holding patents and crafting his image.
Paramount and J.J. Abrams‘ Bad Robot production company are eager to bolster false history by developing an Edison biopic. According to The Wrap, the movie “will depict the legendary inventor as a rugged eccentric genius.” This Oatmeal comic does a pretty good job of explaining why Edison was anything but, and that what we really need is a Nikola Tesla movie.
That’s not to say Edison didn’t have an impact on human history. But his impact should be evaluated by what he actually did, which was using his business acumen even though it could stifle growth and innovation. What makes an Edison biopic ironic is that Hollywood unintentionally exists because of him. Edison, who claimed he invented the motion picture camera even though it was actually invented by an employee of his company (and the technology was already being pioneered in Europe), tried to prosecute upstart film companies on the east coast. To escape legal prosecution, these companies moved west and bought the land that would grow into Hollywood.
And now two giant Hollywood studios will honor Edison by creating a bullshit biopic. Edison would be proud.