Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Tom and the Chicks

Time magazine recently dubbed the Dixie Chicks "Radical" on its cover. I'm particularly fond of the narrative inside, which proclaimed that the "three Texas women have the biggest balls in American music."

Lead singer Natalie Maines, by (perhaps improvidently) speaking her mind about the then-looming Iraq war, turned the Dixie Chicks into a polarizing force in the American landscape. Country music fans turned on them. (A recent Country Music Awards broadcast contained at least one reference to The Chicks which wasn't all that positive. I only saw that one because, well, I didn't watch the full broadcast.) Their albums fell off the charts. They received death threats. Radio stations refused to play their music -- and some continue to refuse. They got into a very public feud with Toby Keith.

Battle lines were drawn over Maines's words. Depending on which side of political divide you were on, she was either the ultimate patriot, willing to risk her career by voicing unhappiness at the president on such a large-scale platform, or she was a modern-day Benedict Arnold, for voicing unhappiness at the president on such a large-scale platform.

Longtime readers of this blog will not be surprised that I totally agree with Maines, and with Time's assessment of these ladies' testicular fortitude. (I don't know if Maines's cohorts knew what she was going to do before she did it, but the fact that they've stuck by her and the kept the band together since pretty much ratifies her position.) While rabidly right-wing country music fans were burning Chicks CDs and issuing American fatwas on the women, I went out and bought three of their albums (which I love, by the way). I recently placed an order for their latest from amazon.com.

PS: Mad props to Duane for hooking me up with the concert presale code for the Dixie Chicks concert. Got a pair of pretty decent tickets for their upcoming show in town. Sing out, girls!

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It's difficult to believe, but it's been over a year since Tom Cruise (seriously -- check out that link -- it's hilarious!) pulled his "so-in-love-I'm-going-all-orangutan-on-your-ass" stunt on Oprah. Let's not forget the Matt Lauer episode and the Brooke Shields to-do. And the strange birthing rituals of the rich and brainwashed.

Meanwhile, worldwide receipts for Cruise's latest release, MI3, do not appear to have suffered, even if box office receipts in the US and Canada were a little lower than anticipated.

I personally can't bring myself to watch the movie, or any other Tom Cruise vehicle, since all of this started. Not so much because of the utter strangeness of the Oprah moment and the public displays that followed, but more because his position on medication for psychological disorders is really literally harmful to those people who agree with him and refuse pharmaceutical treatment of their problems. When, precisely, did this man obtain his medical degree? Between movie premieres?

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When the Dixie Chicks controversy was at full throttle, we found ourselves in what appeared to be a massive First Amendment controversy. Maines had a right to speak out, one side argued. Yes, but when she does, she must realize and accept that there will be consequences, came the response. The response included depressed sales and the symbolic destruction of Chicks CDs. (Thankfully, most people, including all but the most rabid right-wingers, do not condone the death threats which were sent to the Chicks.)

Maines was entitled to speak her mind. And the country was entitled to react. And boy, did it ever react.

Cruise, meanwhile, generated no such constitutional controversy. (Granted, he didn't speak out on something as volatile as politics, but he did basically say that anyone on psychiatric medication was weak and should just get over their head problems.) Instead, the world (unlike me) appears to have been perfectly capable of separating his wierdness from his career.

Cruise was entitled to speak his mind. And the country was entitled to react. And the country yawned.

I really wanted to write this post about how similar Cruise and Maines were with respect to the price they paid for their beliefs, but it looks like Maines struck much more of a nerve and paid a bigger price.

America -- be it the embodied by the Administration or by its consumer spending habits -- gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "picking your battles."

5 comments:

Rene Merced Jr said...

Tom Cruise: eh, he's just nuts.

The Dixie Chicks: I had completely forgotten about the controversy until they put out this new single. I don't care what Natalie Maines says about the President because 1) I don't get my politics from entertainers, and 2) I'd still sleep with her.

MoDigli said...

GREAT POST! I loved reading this, and I actually got lost in the absolute inane craziness of your tom cruise link. WHAT A NUT!

And just so you know, you're the not only one who's boycotted Cruise. I REFUSE to see any movie of his ever again!

purpletwinkie said...

Spinning the new DChicks CD now. Love it :) Love them.

Ryan said...

Oh, fuck. Now you're going to see them???

*sigh*

Jealous!

Guess what. I'm a huge Dixie Chicks fan.

Dennis! said...

RM: I read an article recently where the Chicks indicated that they've resigned themselves to the fact that every time the name "Dixie Chicks" is mentioned in a news article, it will always be followed by a description of the anti-Bush comment. Sad, but true.

Modig: From what I read in the blogosphere, we're not the only ones. But then again, we're also apparently somewhat in a minority.

PT: I'm waiting for mine to arrive. But amazon did give me some digital freebies so I can listen to "Not Ready" whenever I want.

Ryan: HA! :) j/k. Oh, and the other CD I bought from amazon along with the Chicks was Panic! at the Disco, which I know you like.