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The director not only explores the ways in which a celebrity image is built — and the ways it can be both constructive and destructive for the artist — but also audience reaction and how celebrity image is received. The story roughly parallels the life of David Bowie and the influence of Iggy Pop on his stage persona and image, though the characters in the film are given fictional names, and much of the music was written specifically for the film.
This technique of basing a story on real-life events, without following them too closely or formally acknowledging the connection, likely sidestepped the legal problems Haynes encountered with his earlier star biopic Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story which could never be officially released. For Brian, this is the first time he presents his onstage persona as a true expression of his inner self.
The parents, however, appear to be just as disapproving as the television audience is of Slade. Most others, like Arthur Stuart, suffer in silence under the disapproval and the expectations of others.
Through this narrative, Haynes addresses the nature of celebrity, and the ways in which questions of sexuality can relate to celebrity image. The first question Brian answers at the press conference is about makeup. The second question he is asked is about his sexuality.
This link is reflected back in the rainbow eye shadow Mandy wears. Though the rainbow flag would not have been created until later in the decade, the symbol is easily recognized by many contemporary viewers. Slade and those around him use the conflation of makeup and assumption of homosexuality to their advantage. Sexual fluidity is as much a part of the Maxwell Demon persona as the makeup and glitter.