‘The Dirt’ Trailer Reaction: Is The Era Of The Uncritical Rock Star Biopic Coming To An End?

After over a century of excusing male excess in the name of rock greatness, are we finally over the era of the dirtbag rockstar?
The Dirt
By  · Published on February 22nd, 2019

This week Netflix dropped the trailer for The Dirt, an adaptation of the best-selling Mötley Crüe biography of the same name, written by the band itself. The story of the LA hair metal band’s rise from clubs to arenas and the wreckage they left on the way is an archetypal tale of rock star excess from the third golden age of rock in the late ’80s. But where smashed up hotel rooms and TVs thrown through penthouse windows might once have been an amusing or even endearing behavior, audience tolerance for this kind of pseudo-macho destruction is dwindling, and this looks to be another rock biopic that puts the proverbial ribbon on the pig. Watch below.

The Dirt trailer shows us the members of the Crüe as they were before fame: “a runaway, a kid drummer, an old man, a cover band singer.” A seemingly never-ending stream of destroyed hotel rooms accompanies the band’s manager Doc McGhee (Breaking Bad‘s David Costabile) intoning in a voice-over, “I have managed The Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, Kiss, but I have never been through what Mötley Crüe put me through.” So we understand we’re dealing with some bad dudes.
The thing is, this film doesn’t look like it will be addressing a fundamental fact of Mötley Crüe: these might actually be bad people. While a large amount of the trailer focuses on the self-destructive tendencies of the band (drug and alcohol abuse chief among them), it skirts over the actual destruction these people caused.

It briefly mentions Vince Neil’s 1984 DUI crash that resulted in the death of Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley and serious injuries and brain damage for the passengers of the car he hit. One wonders if the film will highlight the fact that Neil only served 18 days of a 30-day sentence, and paid a large fine. Or the fact that he was arrested a subsequent two times for driving under the influence, as well as a series of assaults on both sex workers, spouses, and colleagues. Tommy Lee‘s problems are fairly widely known in the public record, but the 1998 assault of his then-spouse Pamela Anderson, for which he served six months in county jail, will be unlikely to make the cut. Nikki Sixx had a best selling memoir of his infamous drug addiction titled The Heroin Diaries, in which he wrote about a girlfriend, “At the time I thought of Vanity as a disposable human being, like a used needle. Once its purpose was fulfilled it was ready for the trash, only to be dug up if you were really desperate.” Being able to turn a years-long heroin addiction into a profitable book is not an option for most people. But time and again, the myth of Mötley Crüe tells a story as old as the rock star cliches it contains: money can buy anyone out of anything.

Do we need another two-hour montage of prima donna macho rock stars throwing vodka bottles at hotel mirrors? Do we need to make role models out of these people, or treat their ascension from terrible behavior to relatively less terrible behavior as somehow triumphant? Isn’t there a female musician or band that is much more deserving of recognition who haven’t literally caused people to die? Where is the Patti Smith biopic? Heart? Joni Mitchell?

Whether The Dirt will shape up to be a more critical portrait of a band whose misdeeds amount to more than just smashing rented rooms and drinking too much is doubtful. Director Jeff Tremaine could take a look at what kind of environment allowed these personalities to rage unchecked for so many years. But with his credits largely including Jackass and its related media, it seems likely this film will land on the side of sex, drugs, and rock n roll. The question is, will anyone be watching?

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Actor of little renown, writer of none, jack of exactly three trades