Barbara Kopple Cecilia Peck
The Dixie Chicks
Barbara Kopple (Harlan County, USA) & Cecilia Peck apply an unappealing “love us or leave us” makeup to Shut Up and Sing that makes their documentary a strong, yet self-important statement on Freedom of Speech—or the Chicks boo-hooing about dropping ticket sales; haven’t quite figured that one out yet.
Kopple & Peck never offer to show us the other side of the coin; instead they provide a biased account of how the Dixie Chicks were balls-to-the-wall right in their actions. Even so, it’s hard to toss our sympathy to the girls, who are headed by pug-like Natalie Maines.
Maines and her Chicks rock their way through Shut Up and Sing with a “Holier Than Thou” mentality, making it nearly impossible to even care for most of the film (except where it’s easy—say, the subject matter itself, for example). After receiving death-threats, the big-headed Maines recommends the National Guard serve as security…you know, the guys with tanks!
Most of the inanity stems from Maines inability to see why her comments might upset people. She refuses to apologize and sticks by her guns, all the while ducking behind the trusty First Amendment. Maines is one of those Americans who feels invincible by this right--but when did responsibility become so insignificant?
Maines comes off as a dumb schoolgirl, completely ignorant to the fact that if you jump off the seesaw, you’re just as likely to be hurt. Maines and her Chicks can’t understand why radios won’t play their songs or album sales plummeted, and chances are most people who watch this film won’t either.
Aha! But here’s the genius of the directors: portraying the Dixie Chicks not just as, ahem--artists, but as mothers and spouses, putting a face on everything their naysayers have dismissed, and actually making us (at least temporarily) kind of “understand” them as people and not targets—because let’s face the music, no one should be judged by their opinion. Then Maines opens her friggin’ mouth again:
Three years after the initial incident, the Chicks returned to the ironically named Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, only to have Maines’ reiterate her infamous tongue-in-cheek quote, making us wonder, Did she even learn her lesson?
But, as a sucker for Freedom of Speech, I’m somewhat torn over this potentially great film, even if I bitched more than all the crybabies depicted in the movie. Shut Up and Sing isn’t nearly as thought-provoking or insightful as others have made it out to be. Kopple & Peck offer nothing fresh to the age-old Freedom of Speech argument, and have served up a biased Behind the Music-style documentary that should’ve been titled Shut Up and Watch.