Genius. When people think of this word many important figures come to mind. Some geniuses were artists such as Leonardo a Vinci. Others were musicians: Bach, Mozart, or even a genius playwright, Shakespeare. The most familiar use of the term genius, however, is found in science. In science there are very known geniuses that we are taught about day to day including: Darwin, Newton, Einstein. But what truly defines genius? For one thing, each of these individuals and their work had an incredibly large impact on how people perceive the world around them. Considering this, Stephen Hawking can also be described as a genius within the field of science. Some even believe that Hawking’s genius is comparable to that of Einstein’s.
For my primary text I decided to look at “The Theory of Everything”, a movie based upon the life, theory, and disease of Stephen Hawking. The movie, directed by James Marsh, stars Eddie Redmayne as Stephen and Felicity Jones as Stephen’s wife, Jane Wilde. Each play their roles exceptionally well, especially Eddie who accomplishes the task of portraying Hawking as his motor neuron disease gets worse. Although the movie does primarily focus on Hawking’s life, disease, marriage, and theory, the movie lacks an accuracy in the science. This was unusual considering the film’s director, James Marsh, has had previous experience working on films based off science. However, it was understood that such a complex theory such as Stephen’s would be difficult to convey to a regular audience. Marsh instead focused more on the central relationship in Hawking’s life. The movie is much more a love story than it is about the scientific theory proposed.
I was curious to know the accuracy behind the facts shown in the film. The movie itself was inspired from Jane Wilde’s memoir. After looking into it more, I found that the larger ideas within the film were accurate and portrayed correctly, however there were some differences. I can only account these differences to the director’s perspective of Stephen and how he believed the genius should be portrayed. Jane Wilde herself, watched the movie and agreed that a lot scenes were so true to life that they were almost overwhelming, however other scenes she believed may not have shown the Stephen Hawking she knew.
One of the biggest differences of this movie was that it concentrated on Stephen’s relationships. Many people criticized the movie for skipping over Hawking’s accomplishments. But Marsh wasn’t looking to make another documentary about Stephen Hawking. There are plenty of those out there. Instead this film was a personal element. The film itself is based on Jane’s autobiography so it made sense why it was such a love story. The film was Jane’s life, not Stephen’s accomplishments, although some were larger than others when it came to being a highlight in Jane’s life. Marsh portrayed the investigation of love and all its aspects, whether that be young love, passionate love, or loyal love. James also portrayed the complications, struggles and boundaries of love.
Another difference was made within Stephen Hawking himself and how opinionated he was on the topic of religion, especially with his wife. It was said from Jane’s memoir that she and Stephen had a lot of tension between them because of their religion differences. Jane identified as a Christian and Stephen labels himself as an atheist. The tension was so bad that Stephen even began to look down on Jane for her beliefs. This is very different from what you see in the movie. During the scene where Jane and Stephen converse about religion, Stephen comes to a compromising conclusion that if a theory of everything was found then we would know the mind of God. This was a very humble and sweet thing to do for his wife considering he doesn’t believe in God. The movie portrays Stephen as a loving and caring husband to Jane despite their differences.
The family portrayed in the movie is incorrect as well. The movie presents the Hawking’s as an all American normal family, when in truth they were far from that. The household of the Hawking family was an unusual one. The children had lots of freedom around the house, plants were grown in the basement, and dinner table topics were extremely bizarre, ranging from the topic of abortion rights to homophobic relations to sex. It was a constant debate within the house and Stephen’s opinion was always the right one.
As Hawking became more famous he submerged himself even more into the fame and fortune. Although not truly represented in the movie, Stephen’s new ounce of fame overtook him. He became obsessed. He had an enormous ego and expected to be put on the highest pedestal. As his entourage grew his relationship with Jane became less about love and more about ‘slave’ and ‘master’. You would never have known this from the movie. Yes, it does show how his illness affected their relationship in the long run but you would never have guessed that Stephen Hawking became fame obsessed. Or at least you never would have guessed that after watching “The Theory of Everything”.
The last difference made was in Stephen’s reluctance to accept other assistance for his disease. In the movie when Jane asks a choir friend named Johnathan to help with Stephen, you see that Stephen relents in any way that he can. What it doesn’t show you is how this state of mind continued for years. “The Theory of Everything” underemphasizes Stephen’s stubbornness on this issue perhaps to not make Stephen look like a narcissistic jerk.
Overall, the movie portrays Jane and Stephen’s love story in a more positive way. It lacks to show the true struggles and complications that the disease and his fame brought to the relationship. The true story of Jane and Stephen is a story about disability and the wounds it cuts, but that is not the story that you will see in “The Theory of Eveything”. I want to understand why and how the director, James Marsh, portrays Stephen Hawking and consider if it is okay for movies to decide what part of a person’s history is important enough to add and what is not.