The New Fame: Sanitized Moppets Sing the Body Generic


Baby, look at me. Gone are Leroy’s cornrows, short-shorts, and leg warmers: The anodyne adolescents in 25-year-old Kevin Tancharoen’s directorial debut (written by Allison Burnett) suggest not the charismatic, street-smart pupils at Performing Arts, but the Up with People squares. Don’t you know who I am? Like all good drama queens, the students in Alan Parker’s 1980 original, which unfolded during an unmistakably Koch-era New York, take up space (blocking traffic on West 46th Street) and disrespect authority (dropping f-bombs in class, smashing school property). They also do drugs, have sex (and abortions, if necessary), and stay up past midnight. The new class at P.A. is strictly PG, sharing a chummy coffee with the vocal instructor (Megan Mullally) who takes them on a karaoke field trip to Lucky Cheng’s, where not one drag queen is visible. Light up the sky like a flame. Though his gayness was awkwardly shoehorned in, carrot-topped Montgomery was at least undeniably out in Parker’s film. His closest analogue—many of the kids in the remake are race and/or gender inversions of the original characters—merely alludes to homo-leanings through emo, Efron-esque bangs and a slightly swish carriage. Members of the class of ’80 struggled to stay in school despite homelessness and crime; the greatest crisis in ’09 finds a student’s Sesame Street work-schedule affecting her GPA. The sanitized moppets in the new Fame sing the body generic.