"Freedom of speech is fine, but you don’t do it in another country & you don’t do it in mass public" -quote from Dixie Chick’s documentary Shut Up & Sing
Once I heard this quote I knew I had to see this movie. I remember hearing about it a year or so ago, & then it slipped my mind (shocking). I subscribe to Entertainment Weekly & recalled the famous cover of the Dixie Chicks with some of the many nasty words (& some a little more appropriate, like brave & peace) they had been called, painted all over their bodies.
You may remember a little bit about this story, way back from 2003. The Dixie Chicks were the greatest selling female band in history (not just country music), they sang the U.S. national anthem at the Super Bowl, & then there was a little concert in England at the start of their Home tour. The Chicks were in London playing a gig, shortly after the U.S invasion of Iraq. Lead singer, Natalie Maines, said to an extremely supportive crowd "Just so you know, we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." She laughed, & the crowd roared with cheers & applause. Two days later, when the U.S. media picked up the story, the fall-out began.
This documentary basically chronicles the Chicks as they record their most recent album (2006’s Taking the Long Way) & how the whole album evolved due to the controversy over Maines’ comments. They flash back to the comment & what life was like for Maines & sisters Martie Maguire (fiddle) & Emily Robison (banjo) in the aftermath. There was a huge backlash against the trio, mostly from the country music community, as they were pretty much massacred for being everything from "unpatriotic" to "treasonous". Watching these 3 women go through meeting after meeting, trying to digest what was happening to their career’s & their lives’ was a bit heartbreaking.
What really struck me about this movie was that these 3 women are just like us. They are Moms. Their kids are so much a part of their lives (all of the kids travel with the band), not just accessories or mere annoyances (ala Britney). Watching these women go through terrible two’s, fertility issues, pregnancies, career troubles & how they were there to support each other through all of it, the good & the bad, well it reminded me of our (not-so) little community that we have here at urbanmoms.ca. It was quite inspiring to watch them all stand together as one to defend what they believed was right.
There were 2 moments in the movie that really summed up the insanity of this whole controversy for me. First was one of the many protestors outside a Dixie Chicks concert. She was standing there holding her young daughter (maybe 3 years old) & she said something to the effect of "Dixie Chicks, all I can say is Screw ’em". Then she looked at her daughter & said "say it. SAY IT!" Thankfully, the little girl didn’t parrot her mother, but can you imagine saying that to your child? Teaching them to say such a negative phrase & just breeding hate & intolerance in them? The second moment that really struck me was watching the Chicks right before they went on stage for a concert to which they had received a death threat on Maines’ life. Watching these 3 women try to mask their fear, as they prepared to go out & entertain tens of thousands of people, all the while knowing that a serious threat was leveled against one of them, well it brought me to tears. Their unspoken sisterhood was inspiring, even at the worst of times.
Now, I know that hindsight is 20/20 & it is very easy for me (or anyone) to look back now & say that the Chicks were right from the get go & the war in Iraq has been a disaster politically & socially (yep, yep & yep). There is an almost laughable moment when one of the Chicks agents/managers says (just after the "incident" in 2003) "The war couldn’t be going any better. The troops will probably be out in a few weeks. And Bush’s approval ratings are sky high." That whole hindsight thing again. I guess, in the end for me, whether I like what she said or not, Maines had every right to say it (even on foreign soil…egads I know), because that is free speech. Just like the people who responded had every right to say what they said. People get to say all kinds of things I don’t like, trust me I’ve been living through over 7 years of "nu-CU-lear" & "stra-TE-gery", so I know all about the "joys" of free speech. I just like to think about what I say before I say it. That doesn’t mean that everything I say comes out right (ask my husband, or my parents, or my friends, or….), but I hope that I try. The original comment seemed to be sly, a bit funny, & an interesting social commentary to the appropriate audience. The resulting backlash seemed mean-spirited at best, & malicious at its worst.
So, you’re saying, that’s all fine & well, but should I take the time to watch it? I think the documentary is very well done, the director is a two-time Oscar winner. I just think that you really have to be in the mood to watch it. If you want to watch a combo of a concert tour/political commentary/parenting struggles movie with great music, then this is definitely worth a rental, but it may not be your great escape for a friday evening. So I think I have to give it 3 stars, not because it isn’t well done, but because of the fact that documentaries are not always everyone’s idea of good entertainment. Although, if you feel like having a documentary-fest, this should definitely be on the list.
Make sure you have your say at urbanmoms.ca! Have you seen Shut Up & Sing yet? Let us know what you thought in the comments section below & be sure to rate the number of stars you would give to Shut Up & Sing. Five Stars – Run, don’t walk, to the theatre. Four Stars – Worth seeing. Three Stars – Not bad. Two Stars – Marginal. One Star – Do not waste your time.