Elvis Presley: Many Cancellations of the King - Rolling Stone
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The Many Cancellations of Elvis Presley

Baz Luhrmann’s biopic has everyone talking about the King — and on TikTok, Gen Z is calling him out

(Original Caption) 8/16/1977-Lincoln, NB: Elvis Presley, 42, died 8/16 in Memphis, TN, of repiratory failure at Baptist Hospital. Presley, the gyrating, hip-swinging King of Rock and Roll is shown during 6/20 concert here.(Original Caption) 8/16/1977-Lincoln, NB: Elvis Presley, 42, died 8/16 in Memphis, TN, of repiratory failure at Baptist Hospital. Presley, the gyrating, hip-swinging King of Rock and Roll is shown during 6/20 concert here.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably well aware that Baz Luhrmann’s flashy Elvis biopic was released this week. It’s been hard to ignore the film’s major marketing push over the past month: a long standing ovation at Cannes, TikTok-creator sponsored content, a Doja Cat soundtrack cut, and the campaign to make Carrie Diaries star Austin Butler into a Brad Pitt-style heartthrob.

In the thick of the promotion, the marketing push has led to re-fascination with Elvis Presley himself. Public interest had notably waned in the past couple decades. In a Rolling Stone piece two years ago, the King’s estate had been cooking up many ideas on how to rebuild slipping revenue streams and spark public interest in the star once more. Much like Bohemian Rhapsody had done for energizing Gen Z Queen/Freddie Mercury stans, they were probably banking on Elvis doing the same for another historical rock figure.

This week’s episode of Don’t Let This Flop points out that the plan might be backfiring, largely for the same reasons that made interest in Elvis slip initially. On TikTok, there are plenty of videos and explainers about Elvis, but most grapple with the reality of his life that makes them uncomfortable with a movie celebrating him in the first place. The dude was Black culture appropriation Ground Zero, profiting off the Black dancing styles and music he used to launch his own career (though some to most claims of him being actively racist were debunked in his lifetime). 

Plus, there’s the Priscilla of it all: there’s no shaking the queasiness that comes with the development of his relationship with his only wife. The pair met when she was 14 and he was 24. By the actual definition of “grooming” (not the TikTok-washed idea that all age gap couples count), he basically trained her to be his teenage bride, making her wear the hair, make-up, and clothing styles he liked. 

Some of the TikTok videos pointing this out are funny only in the way that they think they are canceling Elvis for the very first time. The thing is, Elvis has been canceled. Millennials and younger Gen Xers have long held opinions on the rock & roll star as a problematic touchstone in musical history, leaving him with a complicated legacy over the years.

Elvis, his death by constipation, and Austin Butler’s confusing Southern accent are all discussed on this week’s episode of Don’t Let This Flop, why you should never let TikTok convince you to sell feet pics on FeetFinder, whether or not pandas are real, and whether Chris Evans is making Boston, of all places, seem cool.

DLTF is released Wednesdays on all audio streaming platforms, including Apple PodcastsSpotifyAmazon MusicStitcher and more.

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