Only the number of films and documentaries on George Michael’s life that were produced before his death, not to mention those produced thereafter, surpasses the number of prizes he received throughout the years.
As a result, Chris Smith, the director of Netflix’s new Wham! documentary, chose to concentrate only on Michael’s early years with the band.
He told Radio Times, “This movie is about Wham!.” That historical period is involved. Therefore, nothing that followed wasn’t the focus of it. Actually, that was all there was to it. Although there might be a lot of additional films about their life in the future, we were primarily interested in this one.
At least in part, that makes sense. Since many films skip over the Wham! era in favour of George Michael The SuperstarTM, Andrew Ridgeley’s role in this narrative is often ignored.
But concentrating just on this would be a disservice to the plot as a whole, especially given that the movie itself doesn’t go very far.
It’s fascinating to hear Ridgeley’s own account of Wham!’s early years, and the scrapbook style is amusing. The real reason for George and Andrew’s happiness, which they experienced when sitting very high in the charts, is still unknown.
According to Smith, it’s a lovely tale about friendship. “This story has a lot of life affirming qualities,” one person said.
And although that’s nice, it’s also not at all practical, particularly in light of George Michael’s issues with his mental health.
There is, of course, considerable discussion of Michael’s effects on being out gay in the public spotlight. In this document, he acknowledged that Wham!’s demise didn’t have much to do with Wham! per se. He said as follows:
“Oh my God, I’m a massive star and I’m gay. That was the moment when Wham! turned around,” the singer said. That, and how I had confined myself, was the source of the despair.
This seems like important information for a documentary that is meant to be all about Wham!, yet George’s sexuality is hardly touched upon once again, much less how it contributed to Wham!’s demise.
The closest thing we have is a brief interview passage in which Michael describes how, at the age of 19, he came to the realisation that he was homosexual or at least bisexual:
I had stayed at this guy’s residence, George said. He had attempted to have sex with me before, but I had refrained because I was too afraid, but then I discovered I wanted to spend the night in the bed. It was the first time I ever knew I wanted to get close to this person.
Although Andrew did encourage his best buddy to avoid coming out to his family, Michael came out to Ridgeley and she received it well, particularly considering that this all took place in the 1980s.
Michael later called this “a pivotal moment,” adding, “At that point, I really did want to come out, and then I lost my nerve completely.”
“I had this inner voice asking, ‘What am I going to do?’” I knew this was not the path to happiness since I am an intellectual person. I shouldn’t be attempting to catch up with Madonna or Michael Jackson, which is exactly what I was planning to do. However, I felt constrained. I wanted to be allowed to grow as a person.
While Chris Smith, the documentary’s director, doesn’t appear to think that this is “a pivotal moment,” as George put it, the situation does seem important.
This procedure does benefit from the inclusion of previously unheard archival film, which is essential, but Michael’s voice is still absent from the selection of the material. That’s where the issue is.
There probably would have been a lot more coverage of George Michael’s troubles as an out homosexual celebrity if he had been participating. After all, they were important to his path before and after Wham!’s breakup. As a result, they need to be included prominently in any documentary that intends to examine the band’s history in its entirety.
Their narrative isn’t being given a “serious” examination by Chris Smith, which is the issue. Unfortunately, this makes for a fairly shallow view since he’s far more interested in how “life affirming” Wham! was to their millions of admirers.
To assist put the band’s tale in the perspective of George Michael’s larger career, you’d think the movie should conclude with additional details. The only information we are provided with are these two sentences:
1) “George sold over 120 million albums throughout his career as a solo artist. Andrew was the least shocked and most proud person.
2) “Last Christmas” achieved its goal of reaching the top place in 2020.”
Given the subject matter of the documentary, it seems reasonable to include the second point, although the first hardly touches on George’s life outside of the band. As a result, George’s extraordinary accomplishments outside of Wham! are less about George himself and more about Ridgeley than you would assume from this one quick remark, which ultimately leans more heavily on Andrew’s perspective.
Additionally, the document as a whole might be attacked with that defence. Even with the usage of the George Michael interview excerpts, it’s obvious that Ridgeley’s perspective permeates the whole movie, which would assist to explain why certain crucial details pertaining to his bandmate’s tale were left from the final version.
Additionally, there is a quick dedication slide, as one would anticipate. However, what about all the awards George Michael has received throughout the years? What about all the charitable efforts he carried out, both covertly and in the open? And once more, what about his difficulties as one of the greatest homosexual pop singers in the world at a time when it was illegal for instructors to address students’ sexual orientation in the classroom?
It’s simple to see why Netflix’s Wham! steered clear of George Michael’s legal issues or even the circumstances surrounding his death. That may or may not be significant for a film this joyous. But because Michael’s queerness is so fundamental to who he is as a person and as an artist, it seems harmful to the overall narrative of Wham! to treat it so superficially.
The film’s director, Chris Smith, said in the aforementioned Radio Times interview that he wanted to create something “reflective of the experience that they shared,” yet there are just too many details missing for that to be the case.