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Fame Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 15+

Raw look at teen life more shocking than you might recall.

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.

  • Families can talk about whether these teens' stories are still relevantto today's high schoolers. Teens: Which of these characters, if any, doyou relate to? Do any of the characters' problems seem outdated to you?
  • Does it surprise you to see students talking back to their teachers andusing curse words like "f--k" in the classroom? Are curse words moreoften 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 agreat opportunity to open a dialogue with mature teens about thestresses they face, including pressure to do drugs, drink, and havesex. How do they respond? How do they protect themselves?

The good stuff
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    Messages: Students have positive intentions to succeed. But the film imparts complex lessons about growing up by putting them in a variety of difficult situations. They don't always make the "right" choices, either, and because the plot resists tying up loose ends, it's rare to see what the consequences are.

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    Role models: Some students prove to be generally poor role models (cursing out teachers at school, having unprotected sex, using drugs) but ultimately redeem themselves at the end of the film, while others stay positive from the beginning. The cast is racially and ethnically diverse, but there's also some racial stereotyping, although it's largely a product of its time. Some students are at the mercy of predatory adults and don't always behave well.

What to watch for
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    Violence: A student (who carries knives) has a violent outburst in class in which he storms out and smashes glass doors with a trash can, and there are a handful of fistfights. Other characters describe violent incidents (not shown on screen) that have negatively affected their lives -- including a 5-year-old girl getting attacked by a junkie, a mother having her head put through a wall by her husband, and someone shooting himself in the head. One near suicide.

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    Sex: Several shots of frontal female nudity from the waist up, plus kissing and innuendo that teens are having unprotected sex (it's implied that Doris loses her virginity to Ralph, and another young couple's sexual activities ultimately lead to an abortion). One student becomes pregnant and schedules an appointment to have an abortion without her parents' knowledge. Another meets a stranger who claims to be a filmmaker and agrees to go to his apartment for a screen test, where she's asked to take off her top -- and does, although she cries as she's doing it.

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    Language: Heavy usage of "f--k" (in all its incarnations, including "motherf--ker" and "absof--kinglutely"), "s--t," "ass," "goddamn," and "hell," plus slurs and sexual terms like "faggot," "fag hag," "bitch," "dick," and "t-ts." Some obscene gesturing.

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    Consumerism: Not an issue

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    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Teens drink occasionally in nightclubs (legal drinking age at the time was 18). Two students smoke marijuana at a movie theater, and a first-time user says, "I got stoned! It was more than incredible; it was fun." Ralph uses unspecified drugs and drinks after his comedy shows.