This documentary about the Dixie Chicks, Shut Up & Sing, provides a fascinating look at a high-profile free speech fight. And this time the good guys – well, the good women – win.
In 2003 the band was riding high and they were receiving critical acclaim for their music. Their concert tour was popular.
And then it happened. During a concert in London lead singer Natalie Maines said, "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." It was one of those short remarks that changed everything.
At the time she made her comments the band had a hit song, “Traveling Soldier.” But as soon as she made her comments, the Free Republic Web site and other right-wing groups quickly organized boycotts of the band and many radio stations refused to play their songs anymore.
This movie captures the whole uproar and controversy from the perspective of the band. Some of the best scenes come as the band reacts to the vicious and hateful emails, letters and other responses to Maines’ comments.
One band member – it might have been Maines herself -is quite right in pointing out that many of them probably had no idea what exactly Maines’ comments were, and might be less angry if they actually stopped to think about her remarks. But the witch hunt was on — and so on it went.
The most intriguing scenes revolve around how best to respond to the negative publicity and the hateful remarks. Handlers suggested major changes but the band members said they would rather keep going and fight the good fight. And so they do.
The first time I saw this movie I was underwhelmed because I had followed the story closely as it happened and at first glance it did not seem to be telling much I did not already know. I knew about the hateful letters and read the Entertainment Weekly cover story in which they appeared naked, but with insults and other hateful words written on their bodies.
But I had a much greater appreciation for the film on my second viewing as I noticed things I missed the first time around. I enjoyed learning more about some details of the controversy.
Also interesting was concern about how the public would react to the band’s appearance on the Entertainment Weekly magazine cover. One person is shown expressing concern it will make them look even worse.
I’m not crazy about the Dixie Chicks music but I respect them for standing up for what they believe in. Each time I watch the movie my admiration for them grows.
They could have taken the coward’s way out and backed away from the statement or said the singer was not speaking for the whole band. Instead they stuck it out, and in a bit of poetic justice their next album contained a hit song which was about the criticisms and the death threats.
While they were still targeted and criticized for their 2003 remarks, the album sold well.
Since the movie came out, the band won Grammys for Best Album, Best Record, and Best Song. If that is not poetic justice, I don’t know what is.
If you are interested in fights about free speech, watch this movie. If you want to know what was really said by the singer and how people reacted to her comments, check out this film.
And me? While I probably won’t be supporting the band financially I am cheering them on in my own way, through this review.