Just before I get started I want to make one thing perfectly clear: this fan rant has nothing to do with me hating remakes in principle. Instead, this rant is about fame (as a movie and a concept) and a disturbing trend I noticed in the marketing for the shiny new Fame hitting theaters this fall. So let's start at the beginning, shall we? I was surfing channels whey I first happened across the latest trailer for the musical update that does a little cross-promotion with the boy-wizard, Harry Potter. So as I sat there watching this bizarre combination of Hogwarts and The School of Performing Arts, it occurred to me that this trailer seemed to almost being equating 'fame' with magic. This new version of Fame seemed to have none of the pain, suffering, and sacrifice (except of the mildest teen-angst ways imaginable) of the original -- and that's when I started to get a little ticked.
Alan Parker's Fame was a part of a larger trend in the late 70s and 80s to make 'grittier' musicals (along with films like A Chorus Line or Fosse's All That Jazz) that took the "let's put on a show" tradition of musicals and revealed all of it's flaws and the screwed-up people who inhabited the business of making fantasy. What made Fame (1980) such a stand-out for me as a young girl was that suddenly the idea of stardom didn't seem so great. Instead, it became a deal with the devil, and Parker's film seemed to keep that idea under the surface of the uplifting finale and songs about lunch programs.
After the jump: why a Fame remake has me so worked up, and a glimpse of the film that started it all...
Parker's characters succumb to drug abuse, sacrifice their personal relationships, and in one case wind up starring in a skin-flick. But maybe the movie's most important lesson for aspiring stars is that sometimes, success doesn't come even if you are talented -- and if it does come, it's not going to be your guaranteed happy ending. All of those ideas seem to have been stripped away in the new film, and judging by the trailers, as dire as it's going to get will be losing your boyfriend or the parent/teacher who doesn't believe in you. Compare those problems with Coco (Irene Cara) being coerced to appear in porn, or a dancer's decision to have an abortion rather than sacrifice her career.
So why did this shiny new trailer get under my skin? I mean, it's just a silly teen movie after all. Well, I've always thought that if you want to know where a culture is at, just watch their movies. Like most teen entertainment in the pipeline these days, Fame (2009) is chock-full of mixed messages and sanitized moral lessons. Not to mention I happen to think that this generation's would-be starlets could stand to learn a few pointers from Coco before they go posting half-naked pictures of themselves on the internet.
The rise of Paris Hilton and the so-called celebutards had cultural critics gnashing their teeth about the current state of celebrity and the people who get famous for just about anything (or nothing as the case may be). But for me what is more insidious is the message that there is some unseen force that will pluck you from obscurity into the bright lights of stardom. Maybe that's why I couldn't help but be annoyed by MGM's remake, which once again trumps 'magic' over discipline...so much for Generation Fame.
Extra points if you can spot the fashion icon in these opening scenes from the classic musical...