Is Julia Based on a True Story?

Image Credit: Seacia Pavao/HBO Max

Created by Daniel Goldfarb, HBO Max’s drama series ‘Julia’ centers around a cookbook author named Julia Child, who tries to launch a cookery television show on a public television station based in Boston, Massachusetts. Her efforts result in the creation of ‘The French Chef,’ a cooking show she hosts to introduce French dishes. The show progresses through the personal and professional challenges Julia faces while establishing herself as a television personality. Since it offers a detailed and realistic depiction of Julia’s life and the television scene of the 60s, you must be intrigued to find out whether ‘Julia’ has real-life origins. Let us share what we know!

Is Julia Based on a True Story?

Yes, ‘Julia’ is based on a true story. The show is based on the life of legendary cook, television personality, and author Julia Child and her influential cooking show ‘The French Chef.’ The series depicts Julia’s emergence as a cookbook author after the publication of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ in the early 1960s, the predicaments she faced to become a television personality, and the way she redefined the culinary culture of the United States.

Image Credit: Seacia Pavao/HBO Max

In a statement, Sarah Aubrey, Head of Original Content at HBO Max, said, “We are so happy to help bring the incomparable Julia Child back to the small screen, when we need her more than ever. This show’s look into her life, marriage and trailblazing career as she transformed the way we talk about food is an absolute delight,” Julia Child became a distinguished figure in the United States after the publication of ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking,’ a cookbook she wrote with Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle.

In 1962, Child appeared on a book review show in the wake of the publication of her book and demonstrated how to cook an omelet. The episode was well-received by audiences, inspiring Child to start a cooking show. However, her journey to become a globally renowned television personality wasn’t an easy one. Julia had to deal with the sexism and ageism of the television industry of the 1960s to establish herself.

The HBO Max series is set against the backdrop of the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1960s, which demanded equal rights and opportunities for women. Julia’s arrival with ‘The French Chef,’ challenging the male dominance of the television industry, was celebrated from a feminist angle. Julia challenged the notions of beauty that appeared on television, upheld by the androcentrism of the era, with her “non-television friendly” appearance and voice. The show can be seen as a homage to Julia’s influential life and career with respect to her significance in the women’s movement of the time.

Image Credit: Sony Pictures Classics/YouTube

Since the first season of the show depicts Julia’s life as an author before and after ‘The French Chef,’ her relationship with her editor Judith Jones is portrayed impeccably. Judith played a pivotal part in introducing Julia as a writer to the world while working at Alfred A. Knopf. The editor championed ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ and published it when another publisher rejected the book. When it comes to the depiction of Julia’s entry into the television industry, creative liberties were taken by creator Daniel Goldfarb and showrunner Chris Keyser.

Goldfarb replaced Julia’s real-life producer Ruth Lockwood with a fictional character named Alice. Through the fictional Alice, an African-American woman, the show explores the intricate practices of racism in the ‘60s. Alice also represents the African-American producers who worked in the television industry of the time, who had to struggle hard to prove their talent in a white-dominant workspace. In the show, Alice and Julia also complement each other to find their footing in a sexist environment.

‘Julia’ also explores Julia Child’s married life with Paul Cushing Child in detail. Paul had a significant influence on Julia, especially as the one who introduced Julia to fine cuisine. When Julia became an author, Paul took photographs to illustrate her books. The couple shared a similar enthusiasm for cooking, and the compatibility between them was the pillar of Julia’s personal life.

According to Julia, Paul was one of the three things she loved the most; the other two being her spiritual homeland France and the pleasures of cooking and eating. Daniel Goldfarb’s show commendably portrays the life of Julia Child within the larger context of feminism. ‘Julia’ not only pays respect to Julia Child’s legacy but also to the social movement that enhanced the lives of modern American women, including Julia.

Read More: Where is Julia Filmed?