Elton John Biopic "Rocketman" Gets Childhood Trauma and Addiction Right

By Bryan Le 06/10/19

Vice’s Ryan Bassil writes that the movie understands how childhood trauma and addiction right.

Music singer and composer sir Elton John performing in the island of Majorca, Spain
The film makes a compelling case for a traumatic childhood as a root cause of addiction. blurf | Dreamstime.com

The minds behind Rocketman, the new Elton John biopic, understand how childhood trauma can lead to addiction, writes Vice’s Ryan Bassil.

Rocketman’s narrative is anchored in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where Taron Egerton’s fictional Elton John shares his experiences with addiction.

“I'm Elton Hercules John and I’m an alcoholic, cocaine addict, sex addict, bulimic, shopaholic…” Egerton says in the movie.

The film has Egerton’s Elton John reflect on major events in his life in the AA meeting, providing audiences with insight into how traumatic events, especially in childhood, can ripple into substance abuse problems later down the line.

In Bassil’s take on the film, he notes how well the film’s narrative, and Elton John’s real life, is reflected in the writings of Dr. Gabor Maté, author of In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction.

Maté defines addiction as “any behavior that a person craves, finds temporary relief or pleasure in but suffers negative consequences as a result of, and yet has difficulty giving up.”

This is apparent in the movie and real-life Elton John, who spoke on his addictive behaviors in an interview with Variety earlier this month.

“There were times I was having chest pains or staying up for three days at a time. I used to have spasms and be found on the floor and they’d put me back to bed and half an hour later I’d be doing the same. It’s crazy,” John said in the interview.

Maté points to childhood trauma as a major factor in addiction.

“Childhood trauma is the template for addiction—any addiction,” Maté writes. “All addictions are attempts to escape the deep pain of the hurt child, attempts temporarily soothing but ultimately futile.”

Bassil points out that this narrative is present in the film, shown to the audience in the form of a young Elton John dealing with abuse at the hands of his father and his parents’ divorce. The real-life Elton also reflected on his childhood trauma in the Variety interview.

“I’ve come to understand—as you get older you understand—the circumstances they went through. I’m not angry or bitter about that whatsoever, but it did leave a scar and that scar took a long time to heal—and maybe it will never heal totally,” he said.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter