I never thought I’d be pitching a cinematic adaptation about the life of a boy who got famous for singing in a Walmart, but the world is a strange place.
For those unfamiliar with the legendary Walmart Yodeling Kid, Mason Ramsey is an 11-year-old from Golconda, Illinois who became an overnight sensation after a video of him yodeling Hank Williams Sr.’s “Lovesick Blues” took the Internet by storm.
In the weeks following the video, Ramsey appeared on Ellen, received a $15,000 scholarship from Walmart, performed at Coachella and signed to Atlantic Records. Within less than a year’s time, Ramsey has accomplished more than many will over the course of a lifetime — and he’s only 11 years old.
Personally, I’m fascinated with the notion of “Internet fame;” the fact that a crowd of curious strangers on the Internet can change a person’s life overnight is as bizarre as it is entertaining.
Unfortunately, there has yet to be a film which portrays this phenomenon in a realistic fashion. However, in the hands of the right director, the story of an Internet sensation could make an excellent movie.
Is it possible to craft a film worthy of winning Best Picture centered around the life of the Walmart Yodeling Kid? Hopefully, this article will prove that this achievement is not only possible but could also be wildly entertaining.
Change the Focus
The biggest question one would face while adapting the Walmart Yodeling Kid’s story into a movie — other than “Why am I doing this?” — is simple. How does one do this?
Since Ramsey’s legacy is still in its infancy, a straightforward biography wouldn’t be feasible. Most films that tell the stories of real-life individuals, such as “I, Tonya” or “The Wolf of Wall Street,” compile events spanning the course of decades to form a worthwhile narrative.
Audiences flock to see what real people accomplished in their lives, what struggles they had to overcome, what scandal or disaster finally led to their downfall. However, the yodeling kid has yet to encounter any true hardship or controversy, at least to public knowledge.
Still, if you were to make a conventional biopic and cast a kid actor to portray Mason Ramsey, the result could possibly kick-start the career of the next Jacob Tremblay or Finn Wolfhard. Possibly it would even earn the young actor an Oscar nomination; after all, portraying the yodeling kid would not be a simple task.
On the other hand, you could flip the premise; instead of telling a true account of Ramsey’s rise to fame, you could devise a fictitious story with a vague basis in reality.
For example, you could have time-traveling Martians stumble across Ramsey’s video and then recruit him to save the universe. You could tell the inspiring story of how a country boy became a planet-hopping space messiah — a savior who cures plagues and famine through the power of yodeling.
In the end, though, it might not matter so much whether you told the true story or whether you made Ramsey into a Luke Skywalker copycat who yodels Darth Vader to death. As with all movies, the potential for a worthwhile tale lies not so much in the content, but rather in the execution.
Hire a Skilled Director
More so than any other single individual involved in the process of filmmaking, directors can make or break a film. Their decisions affect everything from the actors on screen to the cinematographers behind the camera.
When these disparate factors coalesce perfectly, the result is an enjoyable, timeless work of art. So who would be the filmmaker best-suited to make the Walmart Yodeling Kid movie?
My initial pick was David Fincher. The director is notorious for his forays into the darker side of cinema, including “Se7en,” “Fight Club” and “Gone Girl,” so perhaps he wouldn’t seem like the best person to tell the story of an 11-year-old who became famous by yodeling in a Walmart.
However, Fincher has also proved himself capable of stepping outside his comfort zone. Movies like “The Social Network” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” are far from Fincher’s usual dark fare; nevertheless, both movies achieved financial and critical success.
Fincher has proven that he succeeds when he steps out of his comfort zone time and time again. What film would present more of a challenge than directing the Walmart Yodeling Kid biopic?
Plus, the filmmaker’s name itself is practically a magnet for star talent. Combining these factors with his distinct visual style, the success of the yodeling kid biopic is almost guaranteed under Fincher’s wing.
Comparatively, James Franco would also be a worthwhile candidate. Franco is primarily known for his acting career; nevertheless, his Academy Award-winning film “The Disaster Artist” proved that he can hold his own as a director.
Moreover, given the film’s context, which cataloged the rise of cult-icon Tommy Wiseau, a Walmart Yodeling Kid movie seems perfectly suited to the director’s talents.
While Fincher would likely approach the material from a serious angle, Franco’s oddball style would assuredly add an imaginative flair to Ramsey’s story, which may be necessary. Upon closer observation, the Walmart Yodeling Kid’s story may not be as bright and lucky as many believe it to be.
Emphasize the Tragedy
Fame in the age of the Internet is a fickle matter without a proper definition. Oftentimes, the individuals who find themselves caught up in the spotlight will be forgotten within two weeks.
This has happened to dozens of short-lived celebrities; the line between genuine fascination and ironic attraction growing incredibly skewed with each passing example. This pattern applies to Ramsey’s narrative more than others.
The footage that circulated across the web showing the aspiring musician performing at Coachella is honestly a sobering sight.
The young boy stands alone on the massive stage before hundreds of strangers who laugh and scream at him, completely drowning out his act; it’s almost as if the audience views Ramsey as some sort of spectacle, a sideshow freak or a zoo animal. Through all of this, Ramsey yodels away, remaining wholly oblivious.
When an Internet sensation first comes into the public eye, they’re buried in the crazed infatuation of strangers. Despite this, their fans will forget about them soon enough.
The shelf life of Internet celebrities grows shorter with each passing phenomenon. When examined from this viewpoint, Ramsey’s story holds more in common with a Shakespearean tragedy than a success story.
In reality, it’s unlikely that the Yodeling Kid will stay in the public eye for more than a year. Life goes on for the audience, but what about the performer? Do people even care at this point?
Placing this notion at the core of the film allows audiences to truly understand the true message of the film: the dangers of Internet fame. However, whether the conclusion of the story ends happily or with heartbreak is yet to be seen.