Rocketman (Paramount)

Letter from America, part eight: Bohemian Rocketman

New York, 6/5/2019 (Note the proper way to write the date!)


Dear Friends Across The Pond,

It’s time for Modern Media Review’s American correspondent to weigh in on the release of two recent major British rocker biopics: Bohemian Rhapsody, starring Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury, and Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton as Elton John.

Coming out so close to each other, they set themselves up for comparison, so let’s start there.

Similarities

  • Both movies chronicle the lives of gay men leading a rock band. Both men attempted a straight life and realized the folly of pretense, quickly accepting and embracing their sexuality.
  • Both movies had their fair shares of homosexual orgy scenes.
  • Both portrayed rampant drug use too.
  • Both characters had issues with their fathers.
  • And their mothers.
  • Both characters had bad teeth. I guess this is a categorically British issue, not isolated to these two rockers. What’s up with dentistry in the UK? It’s free, right? Go see the damn dentist people!
  • Both characters were egocentric narcissists who had to reach rock bottom to realize the deep assholes they had become and ask then forgiveness of their bandmates, their families, and themselves.
  • Both were British (duh!) and both shot to stardom in the US – more on this later.
  • And (spoiler alert) both found love at the end of the movie.

Differences

  • One character dies of HIV/AIDS, one starts a charitable foundation to fight HIV/AIDS. 
  • One movie’s lead character was so believable that I forgot he was acting. The other was, let’s say, passable in the role of a scripted karaoke singer.
  • One movie had all the excitement of an actual rock concert, the other aspired to the magic of an epic music fantasy but fizzled out in the weak flatulence of spontaneous, choreographed sing-and-dance scenes in London pubs and American substance abuse group therapy counseling sessions.
  • One movie was so fantastic I’m excited to see it again and the other I regarded as a compulsory 121-minute date with my wife (who thoroughly enjoyed the movie, despite my fidgeting and candy opening throughout, and several trips to the restroom).  

Can you guess which movie is which?

Let’s dig deeper, but not about the movies. That was just the launch pad for what I really want to talk about: The UK’s Theft and Cultural Appropriation of US Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.

Nobody wants to go on record about this, but I’m fed up and I’m taking a stand. There’s a pattern of British bands coming here, stealing our blues, taking our women, and criticizing America in their lyrics.  

Not that Freddie Mercury or Elton John took our women or criticized America, but I’m beyond them now. I’m talking about Bowie and his Young Americans, and the Hollies with their Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress (yes, she was American), and the Guess Who’s American Woman (Yes, yes.  They are a Canadian band but it’s all the same – they still print the Queen on their money, right?), and that American woman who shook AC/DC all night long (Oh, right … Australian band … I told you already, I don’t care).

And then Neil Young (he’s Canadian and we’ve been through this already) preaching about Alabama and the shooting at Kent State in Ohio. And who does Bono think he is that he can school me on our assassinated preachers? Sing Sunday Bloody Sunday all you want, but Martin Luther is ours, man! Not to mention that U2 is named after an American spy plane fiasco. Really? You don’t have enough to complain about in your own fucked-up country that you have to pick a bone with us?

Remember that tune where that American band sings of sexual exploits with old British biddies in London town? Of course you don’t, because no American band would ever sing that. It’s not cool to talk out of school, as the saying goes.

Note that I use the phrase “old biddies” here. In Puritanical America, if you even hint at sexuality with a girl younger than 18, it’s pretty much grounds for arrest, or stoning, or both! Lucky for Lennon and McCartney that they wrote I Saw Her Standing There in Lancashire because “She was just seventeen/And you know what I mean…”. No, Paul, what DO you mean?

You won’t find an American band called Jallianwala writing songs about the 1919 British massacre of thousands of unarmed Indian citizens and none of our bands are writing ‘Brexit ballads’ about the duping of an entire nation into economic isolation. Why not?

Because it’s not apposite to write about someone else’s history in your lyrics. My smart-ass college-age kids would call it ‘cultural appropriation’ at the dinner table and then I’d send them to their room for using words I don’t understand. That’s why American songwriters are taught to “write about what you know”, not about someone else’s history. (Also, Americans don’t know England’s history because we don’t care enough about you to learn it. So there’s that too!)

Bottom line: Get a life British bands!  Write about your own shit and keep your hands out of our toilet.


Picture: Rocketman (Paramount)


Letter from America, part seven: Come on UK, do something funny already

Letter from America, part six: So you’re getting divorced …

Letter from America, part five: Big Pharma chases Big Poop


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