"Shut up and Sing." That's the title of a new documentary about The Dixie Chicks. It's also a novel idea to a lot of people.
The documentary, which opened in New York and Los Angeles this past weekend with a national release slated for Nov. 10, tells the story of the backlash that engulfed the country music group after lead singer Natalie Maines said during a 2003 concert in London: "We're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."
That comment created an uproar, leading country radio stations to stop playing the group's songs and protesters to burn its CDs and posters. It did not, however, cause the Dixie Chicks to kowtow to public opinion - their lack of contriteness alienating them from the country music world and its fans.
The documentary follows the group - consisting of Maines and sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Robison - and its transformation from Maines' polarizing comment (which was filmed live and appears in the movie) - through it's latest album entitled, "Taking the Long Way."
The right to free speech is one obvious and major component of the documentary, but to me the discussion point is more about the ramifications that come with the right to free speech. Because while I support Maines' right to speak her mind in protest, I equally support the public's right to do the same in the form of not buying the group's CDs.
Reading the various reviews of the documentary, you find the Chicks are handling the backlash pretty well, agreeing that the public has the right to boycott them and seemingly being OK with that fact. And why not?
Despite the controversy, the group is still famous (although maybe not as mainstream), still rich and still making music. With appearances on everything from "Oprah" to "Hardball with Chris Matthews" and "Larry King Live," the Chicks are also still very newsworthy.
Although I can't argue against the group and its situation being worthy of a documentary, I can tell you I'm sick of entertainers plying me with their politics. I prefer my dancers to dance, my singers to sing and my actors to act.
Let's not forget that entertainers are commodities pushing products in the form of their CDs, their TV shows and their movies. Just as you wouldn't frequent a store that didn't treat you right, there's no reason to support a musical group that offends your sensibilities, no matter what they are.
The same goes for movie stars, which gives me an idea for another documentary, this one featuring Alec Baldwin. It would be called "Shut up and Act."
Todd Cline can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Tuesdays.
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