• Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Wham! The unexpectedly thought-provoking tale of friendship and sacrifice

ByErin Aitken

Jul 21, 2023

I turned on Netflix’s Wham! documentary with few expectations beyond a neon-themed nostalgic look at the rise of one of Britain’s most iconic pop duos. I was surprised, however, to be struck by the poignancy of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley’s friendship. I came to be fascinated by the shift in dynamic from Andrew’s personal dominance in their younger years to George’s elevation to solo pop royalty. Andrew was the extroverted confident teen that took George under his wing and encouraged him to come along with him on the ride to musical fame and fortune. The documentary used the boys’ close adolescent bond formed through a shared dream to explore a narrative of male friendship rarely discussed in the media.

Was it then this intertwined relationship between the boys’ musical careers and their personal friendship that made it so easy for Andrew Ridgeley to step aside as his friend superseded him in the very industry that he had pushed George into entering? Because if there is one thing we should all take away from this documentary, it is that we all need a friend like Andrew. Or perhaps we should all strive to be more like Andrew in our friendships, aiming to elevate our friends and recognise their strengths over our own. The documentary certainly focuses on Andrew’s honourable nature in sacrificing his ego to live out his childhood dream with his best friend for as long as possible.

While  Andrew’s sacrifices are clear, it is also important to highlight the sacrifices George made to make Wham! commercially successful. He sacrificed his true identity as a gay man in order to project the image of the playboy duo that broke them into the mainstream market. Although it is mentioned in the documentary that there were personal barriers – such as his father’s disapproval – to him coming out, the non-marketability of a gay man in the 80’s was sure to factor in his decision making. Entering into the music industry at such a young age meant that George’s sense of self was formed by the industry. The binds of his fame trapped him in a huge intrapersonal conflict that led to his outward need for acceptance and approval from the music industry but later led to a well-documented struggle with mental health issues.

Director Chris Smith’s take on Wham!’s journey tells a story of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley as normal boys from the suburbs who turned a friendship and a dream in its most innocent sense into music that was as vibrant and joyous as themselves. Although George Michael went on to achieve greatness on his own, the kindness and purity of his friendship with Andrew was the greatest hand he could have received in helping him reach the heights of fame he did.

Wham! circa 1984-1985 (editing)” by Louise Palanker is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.