The poli-chicks of Dixie land

‘Shut Up and Sing’ documents the Dixie Chicks after their infamous Bush bashing

Emily Garber

Freedom is a two-way street. While our Constitution defends us from penalty under law for speaking our minds, those with the money ultimately hold all the power. And, as we all know, the Dixie Chicks found this out the hard way.

During a concert in London on March 10, 2003, just before the invasion of Iraq, lead singer Natalie Maines said between songs, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” It was a sentence that seemed to aim at nothing other than getting a laugh out of a non-American audience.

Yet, the Dixie Chicks “suffered greatly,” as they say, and have since strongly focused on upholding their First Amendment rights as Americans.

The Bill of Rights assured that their property would not be seized for this simple sentence, nor were they arrested or put on trial for treason. But most bands rely heavily on the monetary and moral support of their fans, and that is precisely where they say damage struck.

The new documentary “Shut Up and Sing” tells the tale of the Dixie Chicks’ struggles against and at the side of their fans. It follows the making of the album “Taking the Long Way” and the tour that went along with it and shows us the personal effects the hullabaloo caused.

“Shut Up and Sing”
DIRECTED BY: Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck
STARRING: Natalie Maines, Emily Robison and Martie Maguire
RATED: R for language
SHOWING AT: The Lagoon Cinema beginning Friday, (612) 825-6006

“Shut up and Sing” is a story of martyrs, a tale of the true American spirit and what it means to be patriotic. In the end, the southern dames manage to debut at number one on the Billboard charts and even play sold-out concerts in the Bible Belt. They remain one of the most beloved country bands of all time, even if entire communities have smashed their records with bulldozers.

Throughout this controversy, the band acquired pet names like “The Dixie Twits” and “The Radical Chicks,” all for the utterance of 11 simple words.

But, considering the mansions the three women live in, their family cattle ranches and the band’s record deal with Sony, “radical” hardly seems to be the appropriate word.

For many, the term “radical,” or even “left,” provokes an idea of protest, pacifism and action. Maines may have spoken out against the president on a few occasions, but she has failed to take any action besides releasing a new album with a couple of political metaphors. For their so-called political movement, the Dixie Chicks have worked mainly from defense, not offense.

The reason behind their ultimate lack of pro-action is clear: Their record deal with Sony impedes anything too political from coming out of their mouths. The Dixie Chicks, despite what some may believe, are not and have never been a political band. Their weak attempts at tackling politics as readily as U2 are uncharacteristic and petty.

“Shut up and Sing” is truly a documentary on the Dixie Chicks’ search for a supposed “new identity.” They give up hope on the radio stations that refuse to give them air time and book more shows in the North and in Canada. But the fans that stick with them will always see the same trio of girly cheer and their name will always reflect their Southern roots.

If the Dixie Chicks are abandoning the South all together, they should be more gung-ho about “changing the world.” To be a martyr, one actually has to do something, and there are people all over who mumble “I am ashamed of our president” in their sleep.

Until Maines publicly declares what she is for, rather than what she is against, she should take her own advice and just shut up and sing.