Baz Luhrmann’s new movie Elvis is a story that follows a larger than life star with a larger than life style, It’s not a criticism to say that Elvis can get overly dramatic at points, Certainly, as with all biopics, not everything that we see actually happened, or happened in just the way we see it. But there’s one incredibly brilliant, and diabolical, thing of note that we see Tom Hanks’ Col Tom Parker do that really did happen. The King’s manager really did produce “I Hate Elvis” buttons.
In a scene in Elvis Shortly after the title character has released his first hit single and has begun to become a celebrity, we see Col. Tom Parker, expertly played by Tom Hanks in a rare “villain” role, leverages that celebrity into a host of branded products. Elvis’ living room is full of posters, buttons and anything else you could think of on which one could affix a name or a photo.
Elvis’ mother discovers that in addition to making “I Love Elvis” buttons Parker has produced buttons with the opposite sentiment, because why not make money from both sides. As the CBC reports, this is no exaggeration.
It shows a pretty forward thinking mind on the part of Col. Tom Parker. The man knew that his star would be divisive. While many young people loved Elvis, the older generation did not. While he was obviously very appealing to women, this would make him potentially less appealing to men.
He knew there would be people that didn’t like Elvis, and would feel so strongly about that they would want to advertise it. He knew if “I Love Elvis” buttons became popular, that somebody was going to try and make money producing the opposite button, so he made sure it was him.
Col. Tom Parker would likely be right at home if he was promoting anything in pop culture today. These days people define themselves as much by what they like as what they don’t like, possibly even more so. Discussions of Marvel or Star Wars seem to be driven by hate rather than love, Opinions seem to be stronger than ever about anything in media and so for every blockbuster movie there are those that are vocally critical. If Elvis were performing today you can be sure there would be people buying those “I Hate Elvis” buttons.
Elvis might not be the perfectly true story of Elvis and Col. Tom Parker, though the family of Elvis has been quite supportive, There’s little argument now that Parker didn’t have a dark side, so his decision to actually promote the hatred of his own star is perhaps not that surprising. For what it’s worth, when it comes to Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis movie, there does seem to be a lot of love and a lot less hate.