Did You Have to Humanize Mötley Crüe?
The first thing to know about The Dirt, the Mötley Crüe biopic that came out on Netflix last week, is that its opening scene features female ejaculation. Not an allusion to squirting, like the back of a woman’s head and legs sticking out while a small stream of water sprays away from the camera. No, there’s a full frontal view of a pussy spraying liquids across a room after Tommy Lee (Machine Gun Kelly) chowed down on it for the entire opening sequence. The other band members wholeheartedly laugh at this spectacle and freeze mid-cackle, like the end of a sitcom, before the movie title appears.
Second, The Dirt was directed by Jeff Tremaine. Tremaine lands jobs like directing The Dirt because he helped create Jackass, the property that made dummies willing to shit their pants on camera into millionaires. Clearly Tremaine is the perfect director for The Dirt. If you’ve read the book the movie’s based on, Neil Strauss’ oral history of Motley Crue, you’ll agree it needs a Jackass lens–someone experienced in paring down drug-fueled insanity into something digestible. Tremaine sacrificed some of the book’s best parts, like Nikki Sixx smoking crack with Prince protegé Vanity and the cocaine party with Cheap Trick, and still managed to satiate all of your ‘80s-era debauchery needs. The band snorts lines of cocaine off naked asses and cover strippers in vomit, just like you hoped.
But the third and most important note on The Dirt is that The Dirt kills a little girl. A sweet, innocent little girl with the camera-ready look of Shirley Temple. And it kills her with stomach cancer, a slow, painful death that has her begging her father for the pain to go away. One minute her tiny, cherub face scrunches up and little tears slide down her chubby cheeks as she pleads to her father to make everything better. The next minute The Dirt shows her laying on a bed, her eyes closed, her face blue, her family surrounding her, crying.
Now I’m not saying the scenes with Vince Neil’s daughter four-year-old Skylar, played by Kamryn Ragsdale, are bad. As a matter of fact, they’re the most powerful moments in the film. Ragsdale exudes real fear from her angelic face and her infantile delivery will tie your heart into knots. It’s just that these very intense scenes come late into what’s basically a Lifetime movie with a fuckton of tits. Before Neil tries to soothe his dying little girl, he’s delivering lines like, “I want a fuckin’ blowjob. Think the universe can make that happen?”
Worst of all, these scenes made me really feel for the real Vince Neil, the lead singer of the nation’s most misogynistic band, and the man responsible for killing the drummer of Hanoi Rocks. He was once charged with attacking a prostitute. I don’t have to respect him. The day Netflix released the Dirt, I shared a video of Neil singing with the band in 2015 on Facebook. In it, he sounds like a higher-pitched Bob Dylan screaming gibberish and is dressed like a retired auto mechanic who buys all his clothes from Las Vegas. With performances like that, Neil should be a punchline.
Yet I’ll never be able to laugh at Neil again because I can’t stop thinking about his little girl asking him to tell the doctors “not to cut her anymore.” I have to lose my joke about how he made the sex tape nobody wanted; his little girl spent four months in the hospital before she died. And I certainly won’t ever call him the Pillsbury Doughboy of heavy metal again because losing his daughter led him to raise millions for child cancer research.
So screw you, The Dirt, for killing that little girl. You took away the joy of looking down on Vince Neil. You did the impossible: you humanized him, and I’ll never forgive you.