In Almost Famous, a young teen’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write for Rolling Stone leads him down a path of self-reflection; while reaching for stardom, he reaches for a level of independence he may not yet be ready for.
“Rock stars have kidnapped my son” says Elaine Miller–an apprehensive mother completely out-of-the-loop–as she reports her son’s rock and roll adventure to the police. William Miller gets catapulted into a life of girls, drugs, concerts, and parties; however, while “living the dream,” something feels like a façade, something gets lost along the way, and everyone is forced to unveil a latent truth. Though a story about fame, this movie asks much larger questions and still holds relevance in the age of the social. Almost Famous leads us to question what it is about fame that we crave so much and why it is so desired by the youth.
The combination of coming-of-age with instant stardom is genius; as teenagers, we all crave popularity…immediate fame guarantees that. We all want to be independent; a long rock-and-roll road trip should suffice. William Miller gets to live the life he has only dreamed of. However, dreams and reality never quite align; and this realization provides the backdrop for Miller’s ascension towards a greater level of self-awareness. This movie strays from the superficial because it’s not a movie about stardom; it’s a movie about facing the truth. It’s painful. It may be funny at times but it is not light. The stardom angle simply provides the foundation from which the deeper thematic undertones surface.
Miller begins to question the sincerity of those he’s surrounded by; he is forced to remove his rose-tinted glasses and see the darkness that subsists beneath the illusion. From the adultery and the lies to the dismissal of devoted fans as “groupies,” Miller is forced to question the life he’s yearned for. In the ‘70s, immediate stardom led to a complete lifestyle change; traveling with bands, meeting some of the most admired people known to man, having to “play-the-game” with everyone who could destroy or bolster your career. However, watching this movie in 2017 leads to one lingering question: how much of this is the same today? Is an up-and-coming “youtuber” undergoing the same experience as Miller? Is the funniest tweeter talking to bands about Bob Dylan? In the age of social media, how has the rise to fame changed? What does a young starlet have on a classic movie star?
Today, sometimes it seems as if I can simply be a hysterical snapchatter and change my life. Okay. I know it’s not THAT easy, but you get the idea. Yet, while the best “snapchatters” may attend snapchat conventions and the best “youtubers” attend events for those with a certain number of followers or more, I don’t think these people cross paths with Maroon 5 and Julia Roberts. So, my question is: if you stay off the front page of InTouch, do you retain a normal life? The financial benefits without the harsh reality behind Tinseltown?
Unless you reach fame the “old-fashioned” way (less common today), you may experience a different ascension. If all your fans are technically virtual, maybe they’re not as dedicated. Do famous youtubers feel equal to or lesser than those in Hollywood (musicians, actors, etc)? Is it less fame or simply a different form of fame? We may soon need different terms to define types of stardom and separate them out based on their features: online vs on stage or on the big screen vs on the littler little one. And if we don’t separate them out, what will happen to the artistic attributes associated with Cinema? Cinema is an art; actors are awarded for skill. While certain social media personalities are simply famous for being famous? We should be very careful to further blur the line between art and celebrity.