The Dirt: Anatomy Of A Movie That Genuinely Hates Women | Jack Saint


You know when you’re like… …having an argument with someone and they sort of start to admit that they were in the wrong, but then you get that “But…” the “What I did was wrong, BUT….” moment wherein they undermine their actual admittances of what they did by attempting to fully justify it and make it seem like if you added more context it – well – it “Wasn’t that bad”? Imagine that extended over like an hour and 40 minutes. That’s what the Mötley Crüe biopic The Dirt is. [A clip from The Dirt plays] [ “That’s fame.” ] [ “That’s family.” ] [ “And that’s Mötley. Fucking. Crüe.” ] Mötley Crüe was a band that made mistakes. But in the end, it was a fun ride. That’s the message of the recently released Netflix biopic based on the band’s 2001 tell-all memoir. And it’s essentially that dynamic of simultaneously admitting to those mistakes, but also kind of justifying them, that has shaped any critical conversation people have had about the film. It’s a movie that tries to capture the rising years of the controversial 80s hard rock band of all their sex, and drug addiction, and basic lack of respect for other human beings – in particular, women. But, as commenter ‘ppattison2004’ put it in response to one negative review of the film: [Screenshot of comment] “I am pretty sure if you understood the movie the band doesn’t even like how they behaved.” Well, for ‘ppattison2004’ and all the ppattison2004s out there: This is the video for you! Because Mötley Crüe certainly do not think that what they did in their heyday was a good thing. But… [Channel intro title card: Jack Saint] And if you’re one of those people who think I’m just here to clickbait about a harmless fun movie for a quick buck, I have one word for you: Skillshare! Have you considered it? It’s an online learning community used by thousands of creators across a variety of disciplines. A tool you can use to learn about a tonne of different subjects like design, business, art, and more. In fact, there’s over 25,000 classes currently available so pretty much anything you care to learn about – there’s a class on it. Do you wanna know what to actually use turmeric for when you’re cooking? Jolene Hart has a class on it… But whatever it is you want to learn about – with premium memberships giving you unlimited access to classes and annual subscription for less than 10 bucks a month – – Skillshare is a great place to start. If you’d like to join the more than 7 million creators currently making use of the service use my offer code listed down below: https://skl.sh/jacksaint2 The first 500 of my viewers get the first 2 months for free. Anyway… The Dirt is a masterclass in understanding the difference between what a movie is saying on a surface level versus the actual messages conveyed by the text. If you look at say, Starship Troopers, you can definitely see a film that on a surface level shows us a kind of fascist utopia. One which glamorises ultranationalism and military supremacy, while minimising how it demonises the ‘other’. [A clip from Starship Troopers plays] [ “It’s afraid…” ] [ “It’s afraid!” ] [ Crowd: “Yay! Yeah!” ] By examining the rhetoric of the film we can see that even if on a surface level it glorifies its politics, the text also functions as a satirical dig at fascist propaganda. Nobody would, say, spend an hour and a half arguing the movie is actually showing that system would be a good thing… …Nobody… And with The Dirt we get the same thing. A film that presents one idea on its surface and conveys quite another when you take the text as a whole. Now I want this video to be comprehensible, but I also don’t want to force people to watch The Dirt. So, summary time! Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Dirt is a musical biopic about a small group of societal misfits coming together – – first to break out of obscurity, then be luckily discovered by a studio executive, play their first big tours, get wrapped up in the glamorous but overwhelming sex and drugs lifestyles of big-shot celebrity, play some of their greatest hits for us, break up, fall apart, come back together, and then in the end we find out is was a thing that happened…And was probably fun. It’s the kind of fresh, bold take on the musical biopic formula best befitting a band made famous for smashing the norms of rock celebrity. Now at risk of treading on the heels of another video essayist who talked about that formula, I’m gonna clarify that today my focus is not going beyond the storytelling structure in general. In particular, it’s the idea that this is a film called ‘The Dirt’ – which goes out of its way to give the impression it’s going to be a raw, uncut account of who the band were at that time. Warts and all. [Clip from The Dirt playing] [Nikki Sixx: “That’s me trying to prove how punk I am. Wow.” ] To underline: Impression. Because when you look a little closer, there’s a lot of little tricks at play to sort of measure the audience’s feelings about these events. To start off, here’s an interaction about a third of the way into the film between Tommy Lee’s mother and his then fiancée: [Said clip plays] [Honey: “I met Tommy and it was totally meant to be.” ] [Tommy’s mother, Vassiliki: “Oh! I know this word, uhm…Groupie. Right? Is that – is that how they call you?” ] Now this scene uses a kind of dramatic irony. A technique whereby the audience has information the characters in the scene are not privy to. We as an audience are already introduced to Tommy’s fiancée with her cheating on him with another band member, Nikki Six. So when Tommy Lee’s mother pretty harshly refers to her as groupie immediately after meeting her even though Tommy’s character does identify that she’s being extremely judgmental of this woman she’s only just met – – the film has already made her right. Even though the mother character in this scene has no established reason to basically slut-shame this character. Arguably making Tommy the more reasonable person in the moment. What the film has done is set up a moment for this heartless cheater to get her ‘just desserts’. While Tommy tells off his mother for making snap judgments about the woman he loves based on nothing but what she looks like, the film is actually communicating this is fine. She’s a cheater so she deserves to be treated badly, even if nobody in this scene actually knows that. So once again, a distinction between the surface meaning ‘overly critical mother’ and what is actually conveyed by the text: ‘RIGHTEOUS DUNKER OF THOTS’ And why is Nikki Six spared any of this narrative finger wagging about him cheating with his best friend’s Fiancée? [Shrug] Fun fact, Tommy’s mother in this scene is one of two sympathetic depictions of women shown in the film. She does not appear again. The very next scene expands on this, leading on narratively from the fight between Tommy’s fiancée and mother. Now they’re on the tour bus, and Tommy’s fiancée is pissed. [A clip from The Dirt plays] [Honey: “I don’t even know why you told him, it’s not like she has ANYTHING to do with us getting married.” ] She starts flipping out on Tommy while he calmly tries to cool things down, culminating in her stabbing him with a pen, shoving him around, continuing to insult his mother, and then Tommy Lee reaching his limit and punching her in the face [Said clip plays] [ “Jesus Christ!” ] Now the true story behind the incident, at least as far as I could find, was that it didn’t quite go down like this. While Lee and his then fiancée Honey did have an argument about Lee’s mother, it was in a limo and not in a tour bus, and there was no stabbing involved. Instead, Lee had gotten fed up with arguing and told the driver to stop the limo so they could kick Honey out of the car. Honey resisted, which then led to Tommy punching her in the face, throwing her out of the limo, tossing her belongings next to her, and speeding off. Now, a film is not a real-life account and it makes sense the filmmakers chose to make these changes. After all, it probably would’ve been harder for Tommy Lee to remain a likable protagonist if they depicted the event as it actually occurred. And Tommy remaining sympathetic is indeed the focus of the scene even as we are, on a surface level, shown Tommy at his least sympathetic – – punching a woman in the face. Notice the framing, how when Tommy punches his fiancée the camera remains on him. Capturing HIS immediate feelings of remorse. It cuts back, still from his point of view, but not showing the fiancée’s emotional reaction. Cut back to a closer shot of Tommy, again highlighting his regret over his actions. A brief shot of his fiancée looking back at him, then right back at Tommy, exclaiming his reasoning for what he did, and then one final token acknowledgment for his fiancée. After we cut away, the fiancée disappears from the story entirely. And the thread is essentially dropped – with Tommy back to his usual goofy, flirtatious self almost immediately. As an adaptation of a real world event, the film obviously fails to recognise the actual suffering that took place. Caricaturing Honey’s own actions while minimising Tommy’s. But even in its fictionalised account of the abuse, the film shows a complete lack of interest in the reaction or experience of the victim. To be sure, in this fictional version of the story, Tommy was also a victim here. But it is him, and only him, that the film shows any care towards. While Tommy does have his downward spiral moments later in the film, none of this is tied to his violence towards his fiancée. The film incidentally skips past Tommy Lee’s famous multiple assault convictions against his one time wife Pamela Anderson. And if anything, he remains the most straightforwardly likable character in the band. On a surface level, the scene says: “Wow, Tommy was violent towards women.” When you account for how the film has chosen to fictionalise this event, and the speed at which the film glosses over the experiences of the victims, or the effect of the event – – it becomes “Tommy was violent towards women…BUT it sure was justified, and it wasn’t that big a deal.” And if your counter to this is that “Yeah, of course the focus remains on Tommy, he’s the main character.” How about the time devoted to this executive character’s emotional turmoil, being cheated on by his partner with the band? Or this time devoted to Doc McGhee, the bands’ long time manager? Point being, the film is fine caring about the experiences of those outside of the bands themselves. …Just not really if it was a woman. And so, if women are treated poorly in the film, it’s either made to be justified for one reason or another – – such as Vince being told to muzzle his girlfriend for complaining about the music – – but it’s okay! Because it’s good music… Or, we just quickly skip their mistreatment and hope that the audience doesn’t notice the utter lack of curiosity for the experiences of the victims. In a film that is ostensibly a critical look at the band during that period. We don’t include anything as overt as, for instance: Vince Neil grabbing a sex worker by the throat and shoving her against a wall… Just something throwaway like Tommy Lee throwing up on a stripper in a montage scene. Nothing to really force the audience to sit with what the impressions of the band were by these women. They continue to be, for the most part, sexy props. And yes, that does include using a woman’s body as a metaphor for heroine addiction. These are specific examples illustrating a pattern throughout The Dirt. A recontextualising of the life and times of Mötley Crüe, so as to keep them largely sympathetic while maintaining the aesthetic that this is a story about how living recklessly catches up with you. And it may be a fun life, but it comes with a lot of regrets. In one response to a critical review of the film, Tommy Lee would tweet out: [Screenshot of the tweet] “Your review was laughable. Jeff and the cast KILLED it, it was our lives we would know [middle finger emoji]” “Little girl you don’t even know about this life.” And while there’s a lot you could dig into about calling a female reviewer ‘little girl’, all I really have to say is, yeah…We wouldn’t know about your life because your film goes out of its way to edit around anything that would lead away from the conclusion that it was worth it in the end. The Mötley Crüe lifestyle wasn’t worth it to the women Tommy Lee abused. Nor the women Vince Neil abused. Nor the woman Nikki Sixx apparently raped – except whoops, actually he actually wrote that in the memoir by mistake…? Nevermind… [Whispering] Nobody tell them Saints of Los Angeles is about molesting an unconscious woman backstage… [Saints of Los Angeles plays, lyrics: “Girl’s passed out naked in the back lounge, everybody’s gonna score” ] But as I say, the film doesn’t care to spend too much time on any of that. Dedicating its time with women almost exclusively as things to have sex with, sympathetic mums, or ‘evil whores’. And it’s not like the film is only trying to be a fun nostalgia-fest for fans of the band. Particularly in its focus on Sixx’s toxic relationship with his mother, there is an attempt here to really examine what lead him into the headspace he was in. And what fueled his problems with drugs. So there is reflection…Just not any kind of reflection about the bands’ clear issues with women. And that sucks, because as a narrative thread it leads so well into a very clear Madonna-whore complex seen all throughout the film that would’ve actually made for some fairly insightful social commentary. For those who don’t know, the Madonna-whore complex is a psychiatric condition defined by a struggle to perceive women beyond the positions of ‘Saintly Madonnas’ or ‘debased whores’ – – leading to men who frequently cheat on their wives while showing flagrant disrespect for women they deem lesser. And is that present in the movie? [Nods] Is it minimised as much as possible and barely touched upon thematically? [More intense nodding] I guess in some ways over-examining this stuff spoils the fun. Why utilise a tell-all memoir adaptation as a case study to why you kept cheating on and assaulting women, when you can pretty much just show the fun parts – where you fight dudes and get your dick sucked backstage at a show? It’s not even that the film didn’t elect to show the more seedy parts of the bands’ past which, I don’t know, maybe they could’ve just wanted a fun couple of hours for fans of the band who don’t want to have to think too much. But when the explicit theme of your narrative is ‘Here’s what happened, the good and the bad – the dirt…’ And then you tidy up ‘the dirt’ so as not to challenge the sympathy of fans too much, that’s when things get tricky. As David Fear wrote for Rolling Stone: [Screenshot of a part of the article] “(We got) musicians acting like horrible people but still seeming living-the-dream heroic.” A surface level depiction of lives gone off the rails, manicured to leave the impression ‘There sure was a lot that happened back then…BUT it was a fun ride, huh?’ If we return to ‘ppattison2004’ he poses this question: [Screenshot of comment] “This is what it was like in the 80’s. This is what it was like being in Mötley Crüe. Why is your review your personal opinion on how you didn’t like how they behaved?” Underneath, similar sentiments from ‘Ed Yeakel’: [Screenshot of comment] “You are right Ali. Let’s rewrite history so it’s PC and in tune with modern thought.” ‘ralva6719’ tells us: [Screenshot of comment] “This critic comes across as someone who is mad that this behaviour occurred back in those days.. She apparently wants to throw it under the rug and pretend it never happened.” Just below, ‘Mark Kohler’ gives us: [Screenshot of comment] “It’s not supposed to be an apology tour for the 1980s. It’s not supposed to fit into the MeToo movement. It just is what it is–these were the times and this is what happened.” Except you know and I know, that this is not “what happened.” This is a work of fiction. Cobbled together from real-life accounts (highly disputed real-life accounts), but manufactured to give a certain impression of the band Mötley Crüe. A band made famous by their desperation to subvert norms of the music industry, by having sex with a lot of women, getting very drunk, and doing a lot of drugs. And to go along with it, a biopic that carefully toes the line, so as to not really subvert our expectations of what the Mötley Crüe were: playful, reckless mavericks – but alright in the end. The band may have grown past their weird hang-ups about women. If that’s the case, it’s a shame they wound up with a film that attempts to retroactively justify and minimise the experiences of those women. Giving us a film that would’ve seemed kind of outdated even if it was made in the 1980s. I wasn’t looking for a Mötley Crüe biopic to be some tentpole feminist movie… I guess what I was hoping for was a movie that did what it said on the tin – exposing an unseen perspective on the band with a new critical eye, instead of the same rose-tinted commercial image packaged up to be enjoyed by someone’s middle-aged dad. Paradoxically, we wind up with a film that fetishises its own desire to show the raw, dirty reality of what it’s like to be a rockstar – – but shaves away any part of the band’s past that’s too edgy, so as to prevent us looking too critically. Leaving in the sex parties and drug binges and even the tragic deaths that the story couldn’t have possibly left out… ..But hold back on the domestic violence and sexual assault. It’s a problem you could’ve probably predicted on seeing how heavily involved the band were with the production. But a problem nonetheless. And that’s probably a big part of the disconnect between critical and audience reactions to the film. Fans think they’re being reminded of what the band and its members were, and not a carefully edited commercial product designed to downplay the more truly dismal aspects of the thing they like’s past. Or, maybe ‘ppattison2004’ is the only one who truly understands that the film is actually commentary on how nostalgia can warp our perspectives and he’s just playing along… And if that’s the case ‘ppattison2004’… I salute you. [Channel end card: Jack Saint] Hey folks, I hope you enjoyed me ranting about a movie you probably have no interest in watching. And sorry about that one Mötley Crüe fans… Look, come on… I’m kind of one of you. I really like Home Sweet Home. In any case, I hope you all got something out of the video. This one’s a bit harsher than I thought it’d be when I started writing. Whether or not it still stayed kind of coherent – I’ll leave that up to you. As always, whether you agree or disagree with my take – you can let me know in the comments down below. If you did like the video, I’d appreciate a buck or two (links in description!) over on Patreon or Ko-fi for one time donations. It’ll get you on the list scrolling past, you’ll get extra goodies on the Patreon page, and you’ll help me keep the show going. If you pay some extra money you’ll even get a special mention, just like: [Starts reading a list of Patrons] Adam Hall, Astral Vagabond, E.V. Roske, Taurun The Exile – – with an extra special thanks to Cowrara and Pamphleteer. You can also get in touch with me on Twitter at lackingsaint. And I host fairly regular livestreams over on Twitch at twitch.tv/lacksaint Once again, I wanna thank Skillshare for sponsoring me with this video. Their support is greatly appreciated and it’s been cool to basically give out free memberships to my viewers the last few months. Other than that, I think the next video will be towards the end of the month. And, uh, well…It’ll be something. Hope you all have a great week! Love you all, and stay safe. [A picture of Margaret Thatcher suddenly appears with the words “rest in peace margaret thatcher” – accompanied by a dinky air-horn rendition of God Save The Queen]

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