“The Dirt” necessary viewing for Motley Crue fans, promotes ’80s nostalgia

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While not every viewer of the Motley Crue biopic, “The Dirt” was enamored of the project, unofficial responses from viewers online and off, found that most people were impressed with the film.

In an age that is more than 30 years removed from most of the film’s temporal setting, “The Dirt” reminds those who lived through the 1980s what the era was like, and provides insight into the period for those who missed it by virtue of having been born too late.

Motley Crue, “The Dirt” and 1980s glam metal

What was hinted at, and shown, but not really discussed, was how glam metal was a bit difficult to take. It was not like Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath, and it was certainly a departure from 1970s hard rock. But the genre’s difference was one of the selling points and the attendant parties didn’t hurt.

The music, glam metal as produced by Motley Crue, was fast (as evidenced by the rhythm guitar player who couldn’t keep up in the audition scene), the lyrics were sexual, often dark, and later, a little funny.

The movie, despite critics’ takeaways, offered a look at the good and bad. A brief look into the members’ backstories provides insights into what made the members of the band who they were. That served to humanize people that have essentially become larger than life to millions of fans. However, there is the treatment of women in the film that some people have objected to, but if those depictions are accurate, then those moments need to be in the movie, for better or worse. Of course, in the #metoo era, the chauvinistic antics of the musicians in the film look terrible. However, rock ‘n’ roll has always had an uneasy partnership with women’s rights. It is easy to imagine that it wasn’t easy for those moments to be replicated on film.

But what does stand out and what constitutes the best moments of the film, is hearing how certain songs came together, and re-hearing “Looks That Kill” and remembering how that video was one of the most unique ones to play on Music Television at the time. The music reminds viewers why the movie needed to made in the first place, aside from merely being the film version of the band’s book of the same name.

A moment that must have been difficult to revisit was the death of Razzle from Hanoi Rocks, who was killed when lead singer Vince Neil was driving under the influence. The solemn tone of that and related scenes was a somber reminder that there must be limits, and that there are consequences.

The tear-jerker of the movie was the death of Neil’s daughter, Skylar. A hospital scene in which the little girl just wants her daddy to make “it,” the tumor in her stomach, go away, was universally touching. Viewers of “The Dirt” are forced to accept that the band that places a woman beneath a table for, ahem, favors, are also men who have to deal with tragic losses and irreparable relationships with parents.

While some people didn’t like the movie because it wasn’t as detailed as the book – – the movie was engrossing for its running time. Any longer and maybe some less ardent fans would have gotten bored, or lost.

Like a number of movies that are based on real-life, one of the best things about “The Dirt” was seeing the clips at the end. While credits rolled, audiences were treated to comparisons of actual photographs to the depiction of those photographs in the movie. Also, the moment in which Machine Gun Kelly walks into a trailer as drummer Tommy Lee in the 1980s, and the real Tommy Lee walks out, was hilarious.

It seems that ever since the success of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” people have been taking band biopics a little more seriously. “The Dirt” is a film that reminds viewers that bands are people, too. In addition, creative people rarely provide easy answers or comfort. Fans who understand the complexity of the musicians they admire might find biopics easier to watch than those who do not.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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