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'Elvis Presley: The King of Rock and Roll or Misogyny?'

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'Elvis Presley: The King of Rock and Roll or Misogyny?'

Controversy is ridden within the name of the 1950’s significantly cultural singer, Elvis Aaron Presley. Covering genres from rock, country, the blues and gospel, not a single lyric was written by himself, apart from a few songs co-crediting him, yet his voice charmed and mesmerised millions worldwide, selling over one billion records of his talent through vinyl, cassettes, CDs and digital players. With classic recordings of Mark James’s “Always on my Mind” and “Suspicious Minds”, Elvis’s back catalogue exceeded expectations of his Mississippi and Memphis upbringing of a shy, skinny, white ’mama’s boy’.

At the time his provocative dances upon stage challenged society’s expected amenities of performers, causing significant backlash and negative publicity with the nickname “Elvis the Pelvis”. To rectify this, producers promoted the family imagery of Elvis’s music on his July 1956 performance of Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” on The Steve Allen Show, which involved a basset hound sharing the stage with him. In the 2022 Elvis movie, Austin Butler portrays this moment in Elvis’s life where he is nearly arrested for his gyrating hip movements, to which the humiliation and contrast of the singer’s behaviour causes disappointed fans to demand for the ‘old Elvis’ to return. This furthered the icon’s rebellious, unprecedented status, breaking barriers within the music industry and causing many women to feel enthralled by his erotic appeal as more traditional viewers and listeners perceived him as vulgar and fearful for his idiosyncrasies.

Even now following the release of the 2023 Priscilla movie, controversy rises of ‘The King’ as the movie portrays the perspective of his wife of 6 years, revealing darker truths that were diverted in the biographical drama film Elvis (2022). The initial ten-year age gap was presented in both films from the first glimpse of Priscilla as a fourteen-year-old girl in Germany during Elvis’s time serving in the army, however, the most recent adaption of their lives enhances on the unsettling nature of her 1960’s relationship with the famous musician.

Based on the memoir ‘Elvis and Me’ by Priscilla Presley in 1985, the movie focuses on her perspective and time spent with her partner across the stages of her life; through school, marriage, childbirth, and the separation between the two which resulted from the series of songs, films and shows Elvis accumulated over the years. Sofia Coppola (the writer, director and producer) also exploits Elvis’s unnerving nature of violence towards his partner, with various scenes unveiling uncomfortable arguments on many occasions. One including a conversation which arose about the singer’s new options of covers, Priscilla’s input resulted into the situation spiralling, and Elvis unexpectedly hurtling a chair that luckily just misses Priscilla. Throughout their years living together, viewers are exposed to multiple shots of aggressive and manipulative behaviour that influenced her choices of fashion, makeup, hair, and will over her spare time. However, the ending of the film finalises with Priscilla’s leaving, without further information regarding her life divorced from Elvis. This ends her character portrayal as solely based around him, despite centring her desires to escape to enter her life of independence.

Even though the movie presented continuous clips of cohesive control, Priscilla’s infatuation for Elvis left her hopelessly loving him for years; at the movie premier she stated to reporters that “it wasn’t that I didn't love him. He was the love of my life, but it was the lifestyle that was so difficult for me”. Despite the discrepancies in Elvis’s behaviour, from the fascinating mirage he showed the public, Priscilla still affirms that Elvis was “very kind, very soft, very loving”, presenting him still as the beloved musician many people in the world knew him to be.

However, as more is unveiled about his actions, are people able to separate the art from the artist? The increasing adoration of the rock giant has led to multiple tribute acts, festivals and an upcoming holographic experience in London to recreate the embodiment of his music for fans of the 21st century. Elvis’s popularity has exceeded immensely since his death in August 1977, with his legacy laying out a pathway of appreciation of rock and roll with lasting longevity. As more of the icon’s troubles and conspiracies are exposed to be true, a 2024 audience is more conscious of his history of misogynistic attitudes than his suggestive performance style. But regardless those who are equally concerned with the artist’s behaviour, his musical talent continues to be recognised for its brilliance. Monthly listeners on Spotify have now grown to an outstanding 34,662,268 as people develop a greater appreciation; can he still be appreciated for his musical prowess and talent or do we need to challenge his misogyny?

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