Rock Star Dramas Remind Us that Man Was Not Made to Be Worshipped
By Tess Farrand, Staff Writer
“ For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” – Mark 8:38 (KJV)
A mix of new movies are showcasing troubled artists on their road to fame. From A STAR IS BORN, to the upcoming Elton John biopic movie ROCKETMAN, the culture keeps coming back to this story that’s a tale we’ve seen thousands of times in history. However, the range of heartache and success that the characters go through in three specific projects reflects the brokenness of human nature and forces us to look inward and learn something about the condition of our souls.
Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, A STAR IS BORN is a remake, but is also heavily reminiscent of the 2005 biopic movie WALK THE LINE (based on the true story of Johnny Cash). Audiences follow Ally (Lady Gaga) as she meets the ultimate rock star, Jack Main (Bradley Cooper). Together the pair embark on tour together to conquer the world through song. If audiences are in tune to the on-screen events, they’ll notice that within the first five minutes of the movie, Jack is already looking to drown his troubled past in alcohol and addiction. Tragically, the ending echoes the movie’s feature songs “Shallow,” “I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in I’ll never meet the ground….”
Releasing this weekend, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY focuses on the struggles and success of the British rock band Queen. The band’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury, is also a case in point of the “rock star narrative.” As fame grows for the band, Mercury and his posse get swayed by the temptations of drugs and sexual perversion. Tragically, after years of acclaim, Mercury dies at the young age of forty-five from AIDS.
ELVIS PRESLEY: THE SEARCHER is a two-part documentary that aired on TV and follows the life of the late King of Rock. THE SEARCHER explores Elvis’ upbringing, gospel roots and his fast-paced career that made him a pop culture icon. Unlike other similar movies, THE SEARCHER suggests that Elvis never lost his soul even though the cost of fame certainly proved a challenging temptation to pander to the ways of the world.
The movie may feel so real that you might leave the theater in tears, thinking of the lives these artists could’ve had if it weren’t for the pitfalls of their fame. We root for these characters wholeheartedly, but no matter how hard we try to avoid the inevitable, we know that there will be a tragedy. Perhaps this comes in part because we love knowing what’s behind the scenes of all the glitz and glamour we see, or perhaps it’s because we see a bit of our own story unfold before our eyes.
For believers, we should be able to identify that the hurt and loneliness these widely famous stars have stems from a missing component of true contentment. Jack Main wallows in his past and frustration; Freddie Mercury runs after his lust and passion; and, Elvis’ tumultuous career lead’s his fans to speculate his untimely death to this day. In looking more closely at the variables at play in these movies, we see that they often deal with all sorts of relational wounds and addiction. Many of these artist’s pursue fame, money, acceptance, and meaning, when they should’ve been looking to the one person who could save them from putting their identity in the things of this world, which inevitably fail us. To satisfy what Elvis would call, our “achy breaky heart,” we need only to look to Jesus Christ as the true source of contentment. If only, we saw the troubled musician or star do the same in movies.
The occasional few do end up finding the hope and saving power of the gospel. In fact, this is what brought the daredevil actor Steve McQueen to his knees in his final years of life, as did Johnny Cash and many actors in the industry.
Movies like these paint a bigger picture of the condition of the human soul. Though this doesn’t make these movies purposefully profound, or decent, it does remind us that people aren’t meant to be worshipped. In fact, the frequent worship and praise of pop-stars may be one of the reasons that so many stars and celebrities go off “the deep end.” Rather, if we repent and fix our eyes on Jesus, we have invigorated spirit knowing that our fame shouldn’t be used for our own benefit, but rather the benefit of being able to point more people towards God.