A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, in terms of content, this R-rated 1980 film is much heavier than both the teen-friendly TV drama it spawned and the PG-rated 2009 remake -- consequently, it's only age-appropriate for mature teens. In addition to frequent, unbleeped swearing (including many forms of "f--k," which even pops up in the classroom with no objection from teachers), viewers will see plenty of topless female characters and watch teens grapple with serious situations, including intense competition, abortion, drug use, poverty, sexual identity (one male student comes out), and suicide. Many of the students make iffy choices that aren't always shown to have negative consequences, although at least two are generally positive role models.
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What's the story?
Blending elements of straight drama, music, and dance, FAME shadows a group of gifted students (including singer Irene Cara, dancer Gene Anthony Ray, and composer Lee Currieri) during their time at New York's prestigious High School of Performing Arts, where they're learning the skills they need to succeed. The film -- which won two Oscars for its music (including a Best Original Song statuette for the title track "Fame" -- spawned a 1980s TV series of the same name that allowed several of its young stars to reprise their roles and gave Debbie Allen a much more prominent role as a no-nonsense dance teacher.
Is it any good?
Fame might not be a parent's dream pick when it comes to take-away messages and role models, but it doesn't pander, either. It's one of the most honest portrayals of what it was like growing up in New York City during a certain time. The film also captures the raw emotions of teens who are grappling with heavy issues -- and, more importantly, casts the right actors to portray them with startling clarity.
Fame is undoubtably heavy. But that doesn't mean it leaves ardent fans of the musical/dance genre out in the cold. On the contrary, it serves up songs that still sound vital decades later and puts the talents of young dancers, musicians, and actors on display for the world to see. Fame isn't slick or glib, like many modern takes on the same topic. And that's ultimately what made it famous.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether these teens' stories are still relevant to today's high schoolers. Teens: Which of these characters, if any, do you relate to? Do any of the characters' problems seem outdated to you?
Does it surprise you to see students talking back to their teachers and using curse words like "f--k" in the classroom? Are curse words more often used as a form of expression or as a means to disrespect someone?
What messages does this film send about the consequences of premarital sex, acting out in school, and using recreational drugs?
This film is a great opportunity to open a dialogue with mature teens about the stresses they face, including pressure to do drugs, drink, and have sex. How do they respond? How do they protect themselves?
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