Shut Up & Sing



Chicks chirp about free speech in passionate docu.
  • Review Date: February 20, 2007
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2006
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The Dixie Chicks demonstrate that they're dedicated friends/sisters, wives, and mothers; they stand up for their right to free speech, even as music icons; some protesters are rude, and Maines responds with humor, anger, and foul language.


Death threats against the Chicks, including a specific date when Maines is threatened with being shot; film shows increased security provisions and the women's conversations about their fears.


Footage is shown from a photo shoot for the Chicks' Entertainment Weekly cover, for which they appeared naked with controversial words painted on their bodies, indicating their sense of being censored by former fans and conservative radio hosts/callers.


Several uses of "f--k" (about 12+), plus other language ("suck," "ass," "blow job," "s--t"); several shots of T-shirts reading "FUTK," which wearers explain variously.


The movie's thematic focus is on the band as a "brand," and on the commercial consequences of their changed status (e.g., Lipton tea wants to pull out of sponsoring their tour); images of and allusions to NPR, CNN, CBS, Guardian newspaper, Lipton tea, Heineken, Burberry, Superbowl, Shepherd's Bush Stadium, Entertainment Weekly, Us Weekly, Starbucks, VH-1, Sony.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that most teens probably won't be all that interested in this politically charged documentary, which is too bad, since it deals intelligently with mature themes like the debates over free speech and patriotism. That said, it also features repeated uses of "f--k" and other language (someone calls President Bush a "dumb f--k"). The Dixie Chicks face a death threat in Texas, as well as ugly language in protests (on the radio, in on-camera interviews, and spelled out on signs and T-shirts). The women appear in towels as they prepare for a photo shoot in which they pose naked (nothing graphic is shown) except for the words written on their bodies. Overall, the film offers a very sympathetic look at the Chicks, who are by turns funny, passionate, and determined to say what they mean, even when they're told to shut up. Some viewers might see this sympathy as political -- with a liberal slant.

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What's the story?

SHUT UP & SING is an impassioned, politically informed documentary about the Dixie Chicks' run-in with country music radio and fans. The film traces the backlash against the Chicks following singer Natalie Maines' now-infamous declaration at a London concert on March 10, 2003: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas." A boycott of their music threatened their career. Maines, Martie Maguire, and Emily Robison took on the controversy as a means to defend "free speech." They spoke against majority opinion, which supported the invasion of Iraq. Cutting back and forth in time, Shut Up & Sing includes concert footage, reactions to a death threat made against Maines, recording sessions for Taking the Long Way, and discussions with manager Simon Renshaw as he and the Chicks figure what to do, as the fallout begins to build. The Chicks are asked repeatedly whether they "have regrets," but, after the first worries, they embrace their new status and working conditions.

Is it any good?


Barbara Kopple and Cecelia Peck's film shows the Chicks to be wives of supportive husbands and mothers of young children, as well as long-time collaborators (Maguire and Robison are sisters). This focus makes the Chicks look especially likable, as if the movie means to recuperate them into the fold of domestic conservatism. But, in fact, it argues against labeling the Chicks as either "good" country western artists or "bad" unpatriotic bigmouths.

The whole situation reveals the ways that the music industry manages its business; the movie shows footage from a July 2003 Senate Commerce Committee hearing on radio ownership in which the "ban on the Dixie Chicks" was investigated. As reported in Freepress senators sought to discover "whether or not the radio ban on the Dixie Chicks during the Iraq war constitutes a concern related to concentration of ownership." One witness states that the decision to boycott the Chicks' songs "was a collaborative decision-making process. Everybody fell in line." As the film ends, the Chicks' anti-war stance has become popular, even as they remain "not ready to make nice." The changes in their career and fan base may not alter the way the music industry works -- still, the Chicks will not shut up.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the meaning of free speech, and whether that concept changes during wartime. Is it "unpatriotic" to criticize a president or a policy? How do the protests against the Dixie Chicks become personal? Is that fair, considering that they were the ones who made their personal opinions public? Since this movie is a documentary, should it be objective about the subject it's covering? Is it? Why or why not?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 27, 2006
DVD release date:February 20, 2007
Cast:Emily Robison, Martie Maguire, Natalie Maines
Directors:Barbara Kopple, Cecilia Peck
Studio:Weinstein Co.
Run time:93 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:for language.

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Teen, 16 years old Written by32flavors April 9, 2008

A Must-See!

This is a great documentary. It has the perfect balance of being thoughtful and lots of fun as well. I saw it twice in theatres and really enjoyed it. Parents of younger children might want to be cautious, though - there is quite a bit of swearing and some dirty jokes.


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