I have come to realize that all good stories feature dynamic tension between the forces that want to control us and those that want to set us free.
I just watched Pirate Radio, a highly entertaining movie with some of my all time favorite actors, particularly Billy Nighy (the aging rock star from Love, Actually) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (who won the academy award for his role as Truman Capote). There was also a cameo appearance from the inimitable Emma Thompson. Nighy plays the effete owner of the Pirate Radio ship and Hoffman is an American DJ who has developed a large following in Britain. Pirate Radio is fictional story loosely based on the well-documented fact that there have been, and still are, so-called “Pirate” radio stations that use the airwaves illegally and broadcast offshore.
Pirate Radio is set in the 60’s about the time when Elvis Presley was beginning to get fat and the Beatles were coming into their glory. Rock ‘n’ Roll music was frowned upon by left-hemisphere, dominant, moralistic individuals who felt it should be banned. Because this music was associated with sex, drugs, and immoral behavior, they felt that listening to it would encourage this bad behavior. One of these people in particular is an official in the British Parliament who makes it his business to get the Pirate Radio station off the air. Though the facts on which the movie is based are quite different from the actual story, the feeling of the time is rendered with perfect pitch as we see cutaway scenes of nurses glued to their radio sets and teenagers sneaking into their bedrooms at night, hiding transistor radios under their pillows so they could listen to this banned sound without attracting attention.
What’s particularly fun for me, being the baby boomer that I am, is that I was a young teen when Elvis Presley was first on The Ed Sullivan Show. And I also saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. My younger sister nearly swooned when they started to sing. And my father couldn’t understand how he had fathered someone who was capable of losing it over a singing group. Back then, when Elvis was first on The Ed Sullivan Show, the camera shot him from the waist up. Heaven forbid that we should see the way he moved his pelvis. Most of our parents were horrified at the thought. Clearly, we’ve come a long, long way on that score. But forty years ago, the Rock ‘n’ Roll sound was truly revolutionary. And the DJ’s on the ship anchored off the coast of the United Kingdom did everything in their power to get their millions of listeners moving and shaking.
What I liked best about this movie was the range of motley characters on the ship and their relationships with each other, particularly, as I said, Philip Seymour Hoffman. I have come to realize that all good stories feature dynamic tension between the forces that want to control us and those that want to set us free. Of course those forces are also within us. The right hemisphere has more connections to our bodies and wants to move, be creative, and feel pleasure. Meanwhile, the left hemisphere is more logical and linear, and tends to act in a way that inhibits us from freely expressing ourselves. It is the home of our “inner critic” if you will. Still, there’s nothing more fun than watching a stuffy Brit trying to control the exuberance of Rock ‘n’ Roll—and the transformative energy of the Pluto in Leo generation.
Let me warn you. This movie was not a commercial success. But I have to tell you, I can’t imagine why. It was a great ride!