A Star Is Reborn: New Lessons From A Remake On Women and Power
Yes, the new Lady Gaga-Bradley Cooper film version of “A Star Is Born” is about a complicated relationship tainted with substance abuse and fame (no spoiler alert as this is the fourth remake and everyone has seen the trailer).
But beyond the stage performances, songs, love scenes and alcohol-fueled drama, there are overt lessons on what it means in 2018 to be a woman rising in her own personal power, succeeding and eclipsing her own expectations as well as the expectations of her mentor, lover and husband with her popularity, success and award-winning talent.
According to NBC Think, the movie “was first released in 1937 as a classic tale of Hollywood made possible by the growing power of women and the remarkable technological leaps that came about following World War I. It told the story of a May-December romance between an old vaudeville performer, Norman Maine, and a new talkie starlet, Ester, rooted in the fear of the old being trampled by the new.”
NBC adds, “But the film has never lost its primal fear that women, once given a boost on the ladder to success, will climb over the men to reach heights they never could. White male rock gods are still depicted as somehow ‘more authentic’ than female pop stars.”
Aside from some great costume changes and original songs, these lessons on how to pursue a dream are there for the taking.
Pursue your dream as a side hustle. Ally, the Gaga character, works in a hotel as a waitress for her day job, but also has been writing songs since she was a girl and performs in a bar after work as the only female performer on drag night. She takes the opportunities where she can find them and does not give up on her desire to perform her music. Ally also quits her job in an enviable moment of triumph and daring.
Defend yourself against naysayers. Convinced she did not make it big because agents told her she was not pretty enough, she maintains her authenticity and continues to perform and practice, write songs and believe in herself.
Follow the advice of mentors. Yes, the Jackson Maine character (Cooper) had more than a professional interest in Ally, but he did mentor her and tell her she was a great songwriter and gave her a chance to perform live at a huge concert. “People need to hear what you have to say,” he tells her and asks her to switch her concentration from what do others want for her, to “What do you want?” His best advice may be the night he first meets her, when Jackson says, “Unless you get out and you try to live, you’ll never know. That’s just the truth. If there’s one reason we’re supposed to be here it’s to say something so people wanna hear it.”
Be authentic. Ally’s rise to stardom is swift and meteoric. She is featured on “Saturday Night Live,” has a billboard with just her name and her face and a record deal. Her partner reminds her to “dig deep in your soul,” because “all you’ve got is you. Don’t apologize and tell them what you want to say.”
Don’t stand for abuse. In the age of #MeToo, Ally won’t allow her manager to be disrespectful to her, nor will she allow her husband to. She is powerful, she is respectful of others and carries herself with strength and determination. Unlike in previous iterations of this script, this character does not amend or quash her success for the sake of others.
Accept the awards with grace. When Ally wins the Grammy for New Artist in the movie, she thanks her manager and her husband, but she doesn’t shrink. The moment is tainted by how Jack acts, but she still owns it. Here’s a lesson for every woman who walks to a podium to accept an award and acts astonished as if she is undeserving.
In real life, Lady Gaga, neé Stefani Germanotta, has her own lessons in success to offer women. She is a winner of six Grammy Awards and made “$50 million so far in 2018 alone, making her one of the highest-paid entertainers,” according to AOL. This is her first movie, one that many have said is set to win Best Picture of The Year at the Oscars. She has a net worth of $300 million, after arriving onto the music scene in 2007, according to AOL.
“In part, the story is as creaky as that of Pygmalion, the male sculptor who turns a beloved carving into a woman. Yet one of the pleasures of ‘A Star Is Born’ in all its renditions is that it is also about a woman whose ambitions are equal to those of any man and who steadily rises as she weeps and sings toward fabulous self and sovereignty,” according to the New York Times.
You may have to see the movie a few times to catch all the lessons offered for women aiming for success, and you also may need to bring a lot of tissues each time.
About the Author
Michele Weldon is editorial director of Take The Lead, an award-winning author, journalist, emerita faculty in journalism at Northwestern University and a senior leader with The OpEd Project. @micheleweldonwww.micheleweldon.com