Saturday, September 8, 2018

Three Storytelling Lessons from The Bobby Brown Story

Courtesy of BET and
The much-awaited Bobby Brown Story, a biopic documenting the life of the "Don't Be Cruel" singer premiered on BET on Thursday, closely followed by a plethora of social media commentary. Depending on who your friends are on Twitter and Instagram, you might have found it difficult to escape from, as I did!

The height of my curiosity came on Friday night, which led me to plug into part one of the two-part series. The film closely followed the genesis of Bobby Brown's fame, his relationship with Whitney Houston, and concluded just as we were beginning to see drug abuse disassemble a successful music career. And trust me in between the hypersexualised scenes and questionable portrayals of some of my favourite artists, I did pick up a thing or two!

As I'm drawn further into the centre of penning my own novel, I find myself reading more material on the art of storytelling. I've always loved stories (probably why I'm a book blogger). Stories appeal to people, and I am a massive advocate of weaving your story into your brand, whether you're a business owner, blogger or social media influencer.  Sure the film was an overly salacious display of sex, but there is always something to be learned. I would like to share three things the Bobby Brown Story has taught us all about telling your story.

1. It has taught me the importance of being in control of your narrative

What better person to produce a Bobby Brown biopic than the man himself? Yes, he had huge creative control of the film, which probably meant he shaped the structure of the film, hired the director, and controlled the final outcome and marketing of the finished product. If you know Bobby Brown, then you'll definitely know hits of the 80s like "My Prerogative" and "Every Little Step". But you'll also know about the volatile relationship with Whitney Houston and the cocaine addiction. By taking control of the film, Bobby Brown reclaimed his story, which has for years been disseminated by the media. He found his voice, presented his 'truth', both good and bad. Will it silence his critics? Not too sure. But you tried Mr. Brown.

2. It taught me the importance of being honest.  
Obviously controlling your narrative means you get to tell your story through your lens and the way in which you would like to be perceived. The danger of that however is the temptation to distort parts of your story. The film's revelation of a sexual relationship with Janet Jackson descended into Twitter chaos. Also, seeing Whitney Houston portrayed as a drug user before being introduced to the habit by Bobby Brown totally threw me off. I'm not here to corroborate or discredit ANY part of the story, however, I do hope for the sake of the legends involved, Bobby Brown is not being dishonest!

3. It taught me the importance of humanising your characters, even the villains!
And no, I'm not talking about the sick way the media sometimes tries to make us feel sorry for mass shooters. But I'm rather referring to the way stories told to entertain do so by adding layers to its characters. A great example would be the West End musical, "Wicked", which provides a backstory, and therefore some humanisation to the witches of "The Wizard of Oz."

I saw Bobby Brown's attempt to show us some humanisation in the film with scenes of him mourning his friends' deaths, and tender moments with his baby daughter. My assumption is that they've been included in the final cut to help us empathise more with his character. One important lesson I've learned in story writing is to see my characters as people first, with human relationships, annoying habits, and a past, before agents of my story. 

Well, that's it. Three important lessons The Bobby Brown Story taught me about storytelling. I don't really like the way the film so far has taken shape, but hey it's not my story! If I do watch part two I'll definitely come back to share my thoughts. If you have seen both parts to the film, please let me know if it's worth me plugging into part two.

Have you watched any biopics recently? What were they? What did you think? Sound off below! 

You may also be interested in:

Why You Should Tell Your Story
Ten Ways Black Panther Destroys Narratives About Africa
Meet Tega Baah, Ghanaian-Nigerian Fim Maker Blazing a Trail



  1. I am yet to watch this but I will because The New Edition Biopic was BRILLIANT.I would also encourage people to watch Get On Up (the James Brown biopic with Chadwick Boseman).

    1. I just HAVE to watch the New Edition film! Yes I did watch Get On Up. Chadwick was excellent! Thanks for reading.

  2. I watched both parts and really enjoyed it. I believe that he was being honest and candid. I also think he truly focused on himself rather than Whitney but because they were married she was a part of his life. The biopic was deep. Have you watched the part 2?

    1. Hi Betty. I think I need to watch part 2 as I haven't seen it yet. What did you think about the Janet Jackson part?


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