Eugene Jarecki’s captivating new Elvis Presley documentary “The King” says the United States has entered the “Fat Elvis stage” of our life as a country. But he believes America, unlike Presley, still has time to make a comeback.
“The Fat Elvis stage” refers to the sad years when Presley popped pills and served out contractual obligations in Las Vegas before dying at 42. “The King” suggest the United States has taken a Vegas-style gamble on Donald Trump, with calamitous results.
Can the United States recover? Jarecki says it depends.
“We may bounce back,” he said. “It depends how you handle bad news. And it depends whether this society has the soul and the depth of a commitment to democracy to recognize the kind of barbarism that’s at the gate and that is storming the gates — and whether we’re going to rise up against that or not.”
There is cause for hope, he said.
“There have been more social movements born under this rapacious administration than in my lifetime combined,” said Jarecki. “So that’s an amazing signal of good to go against the daily signals of bad that are coming out of the sort of public toilet of his Oval Office.”
“The King” features a wide range of Americans to talk about the relationship between Elvis and America. It’s a story about haves and have-nots, and whether the American Dream still exists. But it also celebrates the cross-cultural exchange that made Elvis Presley — and America — possible.
Jarecki speaks to people including the struggling Southerners living in Presley’s childhood home to Public Enemy leader Chuck D to actors like Ethan Hawke and “Saturday Night Live” Trump impersonator Alec Baldwin. Many of them sit in a former Rolls Royce that belonged to Presley, which Jarecki takes across the country.
You can watch a trailer for “The King” right here: