Culture > Movies

Whistling Dixie

Movies | Spin and self-pity dominate Shut Up & Sing

Issue: "Darfur," Nov. 25, 2006

If you swore off listening to the Dixie Chicks following their anti-George W. Bush comments in 2003, Natalie Maines would like to have a word with you. Actually, a few words-most of them containing just four letters.

Still bristling over the political gaffe that turned into rejection by a broad swath of country music fans, the Dixie Chicks seek to tell what happened from their perspective in a documentary film rated R for foul language-often directed at former fans, country music radio, and George W. Bush.

Almost everyone knows the story: Just 10 days before the American-led invasion of Iraq, Maines, the Dixie Chicks frontwoman, told a London audience that the Chicks were "ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." Many of her fans-conservative supporters of Bush-chose support of a wartime president over music sensibilities and called country stations demanding the Chicks be pulled from the airwaves.

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What's amazing is the Dixie Chicks apparently have footage from it all-from the actual comments in London to the deliberations with managers following the gaffe. In that way, Shut Up & Sing gives a unique inside look into the world of musicians trying to manage a public-relations controversy.

The Chicks use the film as their latest vehicle for a spin campaign that asks viewers to believe the Dixie Chicks were right all along and seeks to shame former fans. But what comes across strongest is the trio's self-pity. Because of one comment, they can't get their music on country radio anymore or sell out arenas across the South.

It's a life of privilege to which they've grown accustomed. Viewers are asked to feel sorry for the Dixie Chicks because they're playing different venues-and in Canada. Being country music stars, however, wasn't a birthright. The fans gave them status, wealth, and celebrity, and what the fan base giveth it can also taketh away.


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