Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Tonight I watched Shut Up & Sing (the Dixie Chicks movie) again, and loved it, I think, even more than the first time I saw it. (It's hard to believe that was almost a year ago....) There were a couple of things this time that struck me, though, that didn't so much last time.

It was still very emotional, and I think towards the end I got even more choked up this time than I did last time, but it seemed less like a personal portrait to me than a snapshot in time. The first time I watched it I think I viewed it through more of a prism of shedding a light on these musicians' lives and this crazy thing that just happened to happen to them while they were out filming a tour documentary already in the first place. This time, though, it felt more like a narrative, like a story, and one that, strangely, I felt like I wasn't totally positive what the ending was going to be. When Natalie gets the death threat in Dallas that basically says if she steps out on stage she's going to be shot, the buildup in that scene is incredible! It would be difficult to write tension like that in a screenplay, and even though I obviously knew that she doesn't get shot, my heart was racing. Watching her deflect her fear and act tough and make jokes about how the suspect is "really cute," but seeing that inside her eyes, she was terrified, is riveting stuff. It's not difficult to make the leap from that scene to the next, where they're recording "Not Ready to Make Nice," and completely empathize with that anger.

Mostly, though, it felt this time like an American time capsule. If ever in the future you know someone who wants to understand what a bat-shit crazy post-9/11 United States felt like, point them in the direction of this film. Just a scant 4 years after those infamous 15 words were uttered by Natalie Maines in London, the world is a totally different place. Bush's approval ratings are lower than any president's in history, and most of the country now concedes that Iraq was a huge mistake and badly bungled. But there was a time, most of us would like to forget, I know, that Bush's approval ratings were sky-high, and most of the country supported the illegal invasion. They were terrifying times that didn't seem possible in America. I've always had problems with the hypocrisy of American culture (yeah, everybody has the same rights and same opportunities and it's the Land of the Free as long as you're white, male, heterosexual and upper-middle class or wealthy), but I really think that those couple of years after 9/11 were the first time I truly felt betrayed by my country, and absolutely mortified at my government. And I'm fairly certain I'm not the only person that feels this way. As frustrating and scary as my country is now, I remember a time, very recently, where it was much more frustrating and terrifying, and where there seemed no hope on the horizon at all. Only more fear, dread, anger, pessimissm, ignorance, and blind faith in god and country.

Now that most of the country seems to have awakened from their fear-induced and lazy slumber (and those that haven't never will), it seems impossible that that kind of panic and scapegoating could ever happen again, but as Dylan said tonight, "Well, they thought that after Vietnam too." The only difference being, I guess, is that Vietnam wasn't precipitated by a domestic attack. But that's a scary thought, isn't it? Even after Vietnam we haven't learned. All it takes is some American bloodshed and it's back to the guillotine for anyone the slightest bit contrary. It makes me very curious about what would happen if the United States were to be struck again. Would people be smarter and less knee-jerk reactive this time around, or would we be stuck with the very same "boot in their ass," don't get out of line or have your own thoughts brain-dead mentality that happened last time? I like to think that even the right-wing hard-liners have learned at least a little from the past 7 years of utter incompetence and chaos, but then again, a 30% approval rating eguals about 90 million Americans.

That might be the scariest thought of all.

A great Grammy performance of "Not Ready to Make Nice" if you can get through Joan Baez's introduction.

And here's the trailer for the movie:

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