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Movie Review: Shut Up And Sing

April 28, 2007

MrsDoF and I went to see Shut Up And Sing this evening, riding our bicycles downtown to the Historic Normal Theater. The movie tells the story of the US country band “Dixie Chicks” as they navigated the rough public-relations waters following an unpopular comment made by one of their band members.  They faced almost total cessation of radio play, falling album sales, and even death threats.  (Imagine stepping on stage in a packed arena after you’ve received a specific threat that you’d be shot dead, that night, on stage, and after the police inform you that there’s simply no way to be sure no one smuggled in a gun.)

Basically it’s a documentary band movie, not a genre that I usually go see unless there are other compelling issues folded in.  The camera simply followed the band around during the period documented, and included footage of fans, protestors, and television pundits.  (At one point, Bill O’Reilly opines; “They’re callow, foolish women, who deserve to be slapped around.”)  Singer Toby Keith put out a CD with the Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines photoshopped in the arms of Saddam Hussein. (Natalie was not amused)

It’s an interesting story even just from the music-business perspective.  After becoming the biggest-selling female band in US history, the Chicks had to completely reinvent themselves for a new audience after the country music fan base dumped them.  It looks like they’ll be OK now.

I’m not a fan of the Chicks, but for a different reason than most.  For some people the unforgivable sin is blasphemy; for me, it’s mangling Landslide. ;-)   But never mind that. What happened to the Chicks is an example of mob mentality, a dynamic with a long and dishonorable history.  From the crowd screaming; “crucify Him!” to the media frenzy over the Duke University LaCrosse players, it has always taken courage to say; “woah, slow down. Let’s think about this.”  It’s all too easy to find yourself trudging up the hill to Golgotha alongside the one you’re defending.

I’ve had a lot of time to ponder this, watching our country torn apart by 9/11 and the Iraq war.  People from both sides get positively angry when someone suggests any debate should begin with common ground, but for example I share a lot of ideas and values in common with even the most fervent Bush supporter.  I love this country and feel our values are important to the world as a whole, and so do they.  We both would like to see Osama come to a bad end.  Neither one of us wants our country to make a serious mistake that would cost it prestige or power.  So the debate isn’t over who loves America, who is against the terrorists, or who wants to see Osama hang; we agree on all those things.  It’s over what that big mistake might be, over strategy, over the means to the ends we share.  It’s high time we understood that about each other, appreciated that about each other, and focused on the real debate instead of ripping each other.

The Dixie Chicks aren’t political scientists, or even particularly smart (in one scene, Maines calls her astrologer).  But as it happened they were right about the Iraq war.  It didn’t make us more secure, and it hurt our country, and the president is responsible for that.  Yet here’s this entertainment-industry story that grew out of it.  It’s a little depressing to think that our artistic tastes might be nothing more than an extension of our politics but the movie gives some sad evidence that it could be true. 

Categories: Movies, Reviews
  1. GRUMP
    April 29, 2007 at 08:09 | #1

    How was the Bike ride?

  2. April 29, 2007 at 08:35 | #2

    How was the Bike ride?

    Really 2 bike rides – hers and mine.  She’s an occasional rider, while I ride all the time.  Makes for a different experience.

  3. April 29, 2007 at 14:28 | #3

    I enjoy the DCs, but I found their comments tasteless and stemming from the same “I’m a celebrity, so pay attention to my political opinions, too” mentality that I find irksome in show biz types of every political stripe.  And while I found the right-wing diatribes about them to be utterly obnoxious (O’Reilly’s among them), the countering “Censorship! Censorship!” in response to commericial backlash was equally inane.

    I’ll just try to listen to their music and not worry about their political opinions, correct or not.

  4. negativechris
    April 29, 2007 at 16:13 | #4

    “It’s a little depressing to think that our artistic tastes might be nothing more than an extension of our politics, but the movie gives some sad evidence that it could be true.”

    If someone’s personal temperament were to include a heavily jingoistic “with us or against us” attitude, then their artistic taste would necessarily be dictated by the need for art that coinsides with their own views (including the jingoism).

  5. April 30, 2007 at 10:00 | #5

    Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.

    So the above is the DC’s quote that got everyone up in arms…

    I must be missing something cause I fail to see why everyone would be up-in-arms about it.  This quote is no more worse than a typical anti-war protest.  It certainly doesn’t seem tasteless to me.  An artist having a political opinion is no different than a blogger having a personal opinion.

    Great review and post DOF.  I just wish it was easier to find a common ground with Bush appeasers.

  6. April 30, 2007 at 15:24 | #6

    It certainly doesn’t seem tasteless to me.  An artist having a political opinion is no different than a blogger having a personal opinion.

    Tasteless insofar as when I’m paying money to go to a concert, I’m not doing so to hear the political opinions (or religious opinions, or racial opinions, or sexual opinions, or pretty much any opinions) of the artist, unless they are noteworthy for such opinions.

    If I go to someone’s blog, I expect to hear their opinions (that’s likely one reason I go there).  If it’s a blog that’s all about, let’s say, collecting Beanie Babies, then if writer comes out and starts making posts about those stupid illegal immigrants or those crazy global warming advocates or those nutso gun collectors, I don’t think there’s a problem with folks being upset about it.

    I would be as irked if the DCs had made the comment, “We want this war, we want Saddam to go down hard, and we’re proud the President of the United States is from Texas.”  Who cares?  Get on with the next set.

  7. james old guy
    May 1, 2007 at 07:51 | #7

    The Dixie Chicks thought they were bigger than their fan base.  They have every right to voice what ever opinion they want but to think it would come at no cost if not very realistic. Several other star’s have made the same mistake.

  8. May 1, 2007 at 11:45 | #8

    I’m not sure “thought” is the right word.  The statement brought an enormous cheer from the audience that was in front of them at the time, but didn’t play well with their fans back home.  I think they were just living in the moment, a strategy that has always given mixed results.

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