Sing Out Loud, Sing Out Strong, Sing Out Proud

by Alan Rapp on December 1, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Shut Up and Sing
  • IMDB: link

“Wherever they burn books, they will also, in the end, burn people.”

I don’t think they like you Mr. President

There is a scene from the documentary where organized protesters burn and destroy copies of the Dixie Chicks CD’s, not because they dislike the music, but because of a single sentence expressing a personal opinion about George Bush.

The quote above is from German poet Heinrich Heine who knew something of censorship, for his views against class structure.  For his own views, which were argued against, but never proven wrong, his works were banned.

“Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.”

I would like to give each of the Dixie Chicks a big hug and tell them not to worry.  I would tell them that Americans, at least some of us, still believe it is the right and duty of every American citizen to speak his or her mind when they see injustice and lack of reason, especially if it is centered around the government, which derives its power from the people which it governs.  Free speech isn’t free only when you like what the other person is saying.  It isn’t free only when it’s pleasant, courteous, and doesn’t ruffle feathers.  Free speech is free.  Period.

In 2003, the US invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, and at the beginning of a world tour in London at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theatre, leader singer Natalie Maines stoked the fires of controversy which are still burning.  She expressed an opinion, nothing more, nothing less, and the resulting maelstrom and anti-Dixie Chicks fervor would forever change how the public viewed the most popular female band of all time.

The film follows these three women, Natalie Maines, Emily Robinson, and Martie Maguire, over a period of three years as the world crashes down on them.  They raise their daughters and sons, deal with censorship and death threats, watch the talking heads call them idiots and even express interest in seeing physical harm done to them, and try to come to terms with how a single comment can change their world.  For three years the documentary looks at these remarkable women and bringing them full circle to the Shepherd’s Bush Empire theatre three years later to promote their new album, new music, and their unchanged view of a certain Mr. Bush.

Maines’ comment created a backlash from Country Music and it’s fans as the group’s music was banned from radio stations, and they were told in no uncertain terms that they were un-American, un-patriotic, and they needed to shut up and sing.

In a world and industry dominated by men the Dixie Chicks spoke out and expressed an unpopular view.  Was that view evil?  Certainly not.  Was it wrong?  Recent polling and the results of the mid-term elections would say otherwise.  If Maines’ comment had come three years later perhaps the controversy would not have gotten so far out of control.  But then again, if she hadn’t spoken up when she did, in a world and industry where women are told to look pretty, not think and never speak, they wouldn’t be the women they are.

The documentary isn’t an apology, not is it an attempt to justify Maines’ comment.  The film merely looks at the comment’s unanticipated repercussions and the consequences for the Chicks.  Filled with personal accounts, interviews, and some exceptionally good music, the film is a look at what Americans believe and how they act and react when confronted.  And, perhaps even without trying to be, the film is an indictment on those who are so “patriotic” they cannot take criticism, even from their own – FUTK.

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