Legend, myth, folktale, fable, even unexamined "conventional wisdom," whichever word or idea is the correct one, it certainly can spur or inspire researchers to pursue "the real story." In my own line of work, believe it or not, it can do much the same, if less with the objective of nailing down the historically accurate facts, than creatively cutting against their grain and/or transcending them. Either way, as the history professor and graduate assistant point out, it can and often does serve that useful purpose.
No less interesting, to me at any rate, is how a legend or myth acquire their (metaphorical? symbolic? meaningful?) status. The history of the history of the legend, so to say. That is, what factors--economic, political, cultural, anthropological, what have you--may have dynamically converged at some point in time to contribute to and account for a legend--person, event, era, whatever--becoming legendary. The Americanist historian Richard Slotkin's work is excellent in delving into this aspect, but perhaps that's a subject for another day.
As for "valid perspectives," while Mike is at pains to argue otherwise, I am of the opinion that while agenda-driven work may be flawed by definition, even fatally so, it needn't follow that such work (yes, even Boyers own) is in EVERY detail COMPLETELY worthless since it may in fact unwittingly raise, if only in its own misguided or wrongheaded fashion, some perfectly valid questions and/or previously unconsidered, insufficiently addressed, or overlooked perspectives.
Presumptively or dismissively throwing the baby out with the bathwater, even when the bathwater is so much cess and the baby is butt-ugly and/or an unregenerate pain the posterior, is seldom the most productive tack to take if one's object is to consider the subject at hand from every conceivable perspective or point of view, no matter how provocative, contrary or apparently outre.