The New York Academy of Performing Arts is a high school that’s pretty tough to get into. Each year 10,000 teenagers apply. 200 make the cut. This is a school where being good isn’t good enough. You have to be the best. As the students begin their time at PA, the principal warns them that it’s going to be hard going. There’s going to be a lot of sweat, blood and tears. That they’ll have to work twice as hard as any other student. That some of them won’t make it. That’s the price these talented youngster have to pay for being the best.
That’s the premise of Fame. Shame they didn’t do anything with it.
PA is a school for musicians, actors, dancers, and singers. Through the course of Fame, we watch a group of students grow and develop over their four years at PA. And in that time we get some fantastic songs and some great dance scenes. If you’re into that kind of thing, you’ll dig Fame. If you like character development and plot, well maybe not so much. I think the biggest problem facing Fame is the decision to set the film over a four year period. And in that time, stuff happens. Each character is given a story arc. However, with so many characters, none of them are dealt with in much depth. And because nothing major can happen to any of the characters until the end of the movie, the impression is given that the first three years of their schooling are a breeze. We are told that life at PA will be hard. But we aren’t shown it. We don’t see the students struggling to keep up. We don’t see them dealing (or not dealing) with the stress. When one character is asked to leave the school because they haven’t kept up their grades, it just happens. It seems to come out of nowhere and there are no emotional repercussions. We are promised blood, sweat and tears. That promise is not fulfilled.
I wanted to see a movie where the best worked hard to be better. I thought I’d be writing here about how at PA you had to work hard to stay in PA or you would be asked to leave. I thought I’d be contrasting this message with the message of the Bible, where God accepts you no matter what, that it is through his grace he has accepted you into his family and once you’re in, you’re in.
Instead, the message of the movie is more subtle. During the graduation performance at the end of the movie, these words are sung:
Hold your dreams
Don’t ever let it go
And let the world take notice
The message here is that you are special and unique. Don’t let others put you down. Don’t let them tell you that you’re not special. You’re dream is worth following and one day everyone will see.
God loves you. But not because you’re special. He doesn’t see your creative outlets. He doesn’t see your hard work. He doesn’t see the beautiful person within. It’s not about you. It’s about him. Because what God does see is a sinful being, unable to save themselves, unworthy of being one of his people. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8) But God offers you the opportunity to be saved. You don’t have to do anything to earn it. You can’t do anything to earn it. But because he loves you (which is pretty amazing when you think of how sin has made you unloveable) he has welcomed you into his family.
Fame. It won’t make you live forever.
But following Jesus will.