William spends a lot of the movie wrestling with this idea—what it means to be cool, what it means to be uncool, and the importance of finding one's identity. Meanwhile, his rock star counterparts are obsessed with the appearance of cool, pressuring William to portray the band to the fans in the most flattering manner possible.
Lester Bangs, on the other hand, has it all figured out: being cool is overrated. In their frantic clamoring to be cool, many of the characters in Almost Famous lose touch with their true identities. As they approach fame, Russell, Jeff, and the rest of Stillwater get especially caught up in the superficiality of coolness, losing touch with the very reason they play music in the first place—you know, for the love of it.
Questions About Identity
Which characters would you say are most preoccupied with seeming cool?
Why do you think Russell goes off in search of "what is real" in Topeka?
Which characters are most self-assured in their identities?
Why does Lester embrace his uncoolness?
Chew on This
In the movie, there is a constant comparison between the world of rock stars and the "real" world. When Russell and the band lose touch with this "reality," instead becoming preoccupied money and coolness, things go downhill for them in a hurry.
When Penny puts on her Band Aid persona, she is supremely confident. But underneath the fur coat, there is a vulnerability she keeps hidden away.