The Hidden Meaning in Almost Famous – Earthling Cinema


Greetings, and welcome to Earthling
Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is
Almost Famous, written and directed by Sheryl Crow.
Our protagonist is William Miller, a teen-aged human who loves using
his ears to listen to rock and roll music, which is a very broad genre
that has essentially become meaningless. He meets a rock
journalist named Lester Bangs, who hires William to write an article
for him, because that’s how easy the job market was on Earth. This
attracts the attention of The Rolling Stones magazine, most
famous for their issue “Exile on Main Street.” They ask William to
profile an up-and-coming band called Stillwater despite not
knowing who he is or anything about his background, and just like that,
off he goes. He tries to keep it professional, but he quickly gets
sucked into the “riding around on a bus” lifestyle and falls in love
with a groupie named Penny Lane.
The band has a series of adventures involving electric shocks, tshirts,
and swimming pools, and apparently they never really need
to practice their songs. Eventually the band ditches the groupies and
upgrades their bus to an airplane, which is too scary for them,
despite being slower than the speed of light. Penny Lane gets upset and
takes too many quaaludes — that’s ludes to you and me — and William
sexually assaults her on the lips while he waits for the medic to
arrive. William submits his story, but the
editors don’t like it because it’s on napkins. Then he rewrites it in
one night and everyone likes it. Writing is just that easy. Almost Famous is a movie about
image and perception. More specifically, it’s about what is
real vs. what is cool. Unfortunately, it’s not about ice
cream, which is both real and cool. During the 20th century, humans
liked to create fantasy worlds for themselves in order to escape
reality and enhance their own image. Coolness was the fantasy and by
extention, authenticity was inherently uncool. Nowhere is this
more apparent than on a rock and roll band music bus tour.
Penny Lane is a walking, talking alter ego. She lies about her age
and won’t even say her real name, which, of course, is Kate Hudson.
She keeps telling William they should travel to a planet called
Morocco together and “act like different people and wear different
clothes.” She also frequently refers to their rock and roll life
as being separate from “the real world”, presumably referring to
Earth. The band members are even more
obsessed with their image They freak
out about how they appear on the tshirts, since they’re actually much
taller in real life. Russell keeps putting off his interview with
William, telling him in a cool way, “Hey just make us look cool.” They
refer to William as “the enemy” because they’re afraid he’ll reveal
that they’re just as flawed and genetically inferior as all humans,
which will ruin the mystique. When they finally see William’s story,
Jeff complains that they look like amateurs. Russell responds, “Maybe we don’t
see ourselves the way we really are.” They are suspended in fantasy
because that’s what the cool kids do. After the fight over the t-shirts,
Russell decides he’s “only interested in what’s real,” but
then at the party, he still can’t be authentic. He anoints himself a
“golden god,” which is the most valuable type of god per ounce. He
denies the validity of the article because he can’t face his reality.
It is only after he admits his feelings for Penny that he is able
to make good with William and finally expose himself in the
interview [“What do you love about music?” “Everything.”]. How
insightful. The most authentic person in the
movie is William’s mother, a college professor who always speaks
her mind, something they teach you to do in college. Indeed, her lack
of artifice is so alien to human society that it freaks people out. Her influence is apparent in William, as even though he is the youngest
person on the tour, he’s the only one with any connection to reality.
He yells at the band for saying they’re all about the fans, then
discarding Penny, who is their biggest fan, despite never
displaying any knowledge of their back catalogue. William tells Penny
to “Wake up” and that Russell doesn’t care about her. He
chastises her for talking about Planet Morocco when in reality
“There is no Morocco.” At least, not that astronomers have been able
to locate. When Penny makes the resolution to
actually go to Morocco at the end, she is finally being authentic —
making good on her fantasy of intergalactic space travel. The band also drops the act and
says how they really feel, but only when they think they’re about to
die. In the end, being cool isn’t important. Not for us, and not for
humans, especially now. As Lester says, “The only currency in a
bankrupt world is what we share with someone when we’re uncool.” If
we are “honest and unmerciful,” good things will happen. Now I’m
gonna go home and do a bunch of ludes before my wife gets off work.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. If you’re cool, prove it
by hitting the subscribe button.

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