Motley Crue, “The World’s Most Notorious Rock Band,” embody the sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle that is so often glamorized in the media. The band’s tell-all biography, The Dirt, which has recently been turned into a Netflix film, gives their fans an opportunity to explore that lifestyle. Composed of Nikki Sixx (bass), Vince Neil (vocals), Mick Mars (guitar) and Tommy Lee (drums), Motley Crue were one of the first metal bands to explore an anthemic approach to rock music. They utilized their status to attract a large audience of women in a world where rock and roll never made the charts. With this Netflix debut, their legacy will live on into a new generation of metalheads.
The Dirt reminds us why “hair metal” isn’t taken seriously. Sex and drugs drive the plot of the film, and this story has been told so many times that it’s a cliche, so why is Motley Crue different? In a time where hard rock was the only acceptable form of rock, Crue was doing the unthinkable. They kicked up the speed and became a trailblazer for glam metal. Motley Crue is a band that, despite the cliches, has a message; you can hit rock bottom and get back up again. Regardless of what critics say, the music was intended to celebrate life and bounce back from past trauma. The Dirt does not shy away from the hedonistic values Motley Crue has been known for. It tells the typical tale of the rise and fall of a rockstar, but these members have each faced their own set of demons, something that the adaptation touches upon well.
Although the film barely scratches the surface on Mars’ disease and Lee’s domestic violence, the audience is exposed to the devastation of heroin addiction and death, both through Sixx and Neil. Some of the most dramatic points of the film revolve around Vince Neil and the deaths of both the band’s friend, Razzle, and Neil’s own daughter. These moments give the film unexpected depth against the backdrop of sex and drugs. Nikki Sixx’s detailed description of his heroin addiction is tragic and alluring. The film doesn’t spend long narrating his descent into drugs; instead, it focuses on the true lowest point in his life: his own death. Shortly after overdosing and being brought back to life, Sixx retreats back to his home and shoots up more heroin. For somebody as passionate and driven as Sixx, watching his addiction unfold is heartbreaking. Juxtaposing Sixx’s self-destruction, Neil had to live with the responsibility of destroying another life, Hanoi Rocks’ Razzle. Vince Neil not only had to live with that burden, but deal with the devastating death of his four year old daughter, Skylar.
However, there is no overlooking the objectification and overall sexist treatment of women in rock and roll at the time, and Motley Crue is no exception. The Dirt does not expose all of the gritty details as the biography had, but the use of women purely for sex is evident. Most of the female characters’ only purpose in the film, and in the band’s real lives, were for their own arousal. The film’s only attempt at acknowledging this mistreatment is through a line by Iwan Rheon’s, Mick Mars, and it is laughed off by the other members. How can a film like this succeed in a time where misogyny is no longer acceptable? It would be inaccurate and impossible to scrub away the filth of the band’s exploits, although the film makes attempts to do so. Even by removing the more vile sexual acts, The Dirt still represents the sexism of Motley Crue and most rock bands then, under the guise of a rockstar mentality. Despite the fact that the film did not acknowledge their ludest behavior and uncommendable actions, the member’s have evolved into different people and may just be redeemable.
The Dirt revels in the gluttony of rock and roll, but it also touches upon the tragedies that each member faced. The Netflix adaptation is not nearly long enough to redeem the band’s actions as the biography had. Objectively, it is an 80s biopic of the typical rock and roll lifestyle, but Crue fans know that it is only a part of this band. Motley Crue has been successful because of their honesty. They share their best moments and their worst, and they are able to own up to their indecency, unlike most artists who deny ever having done something wrong. No matter what mistakes we have made, we can learn and move on. Motley Crue wanted to knock people off their feet, and their success has proven that they have.