In movies and books, the goal of the historical fiction genre is to be entertaining and believable. In some cases, the reader or viewer will take the story at face value as fact. When Forrest Gump came out in 1994, some people believed Forrest was really involved in historical events portrayed in the movie and took it as fact.
This phenomenon can even happen with fantasy fiction. During the height of the Harry Potter craze, eccentric Christian groups burned the books. “These books teach children how they can get into witchcraft and become a witch, wizard or warlock,” Pastor Jack Brock said in a 2001 Associated Press story.
Now, with the craze surrounding The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, the belief in fiction as reality is back – even though most people know that the book has been on the New York Times fiction best-seller list for 160 weeks.
“The book is everywhere. There is a very real risk that many people who read it will believe that the fables it contains are true,” Archbishop of Genoa Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone said in a BBC story.
Brown was not the first to posit some of the ideas in his story, and people have believed some of them since before he began penning The Da Vinci Code. One of the groups getting the most heat from the book is the Opus Dei, an ultraconservative Christian group.
“Yet in casting the group as his heavy, Brown was as shrewd as someone setting up an innocent man for a crime. You don’t choose the head of the Rotary,” David Van Biema wrote in Time magazine. “You single out the secretive guy at the end of the block with the off-putting tics, who perhaps has a couple of incidents in his past that will hinder an effective defense.”
The group has been extremely secretive in the 78 years it has existed. People without prior knowledge of the group will only see it as criminal, since that is how Brown portrayed it in his book.
However, this is not the fault of the Hollywood or any writer; the blame rests on the individual who can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction. With the imminent release of the cinematic adaptation of Brown’s bestseller, people would do well will look at the categorization of the novel before citing The Da Vinci Code as a historical source and trying to catch the Hogwarts Express.