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The Dichotomy of Elvis (2022) and Priscilla (2023)

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Geneseo chapter.

So, Elvis Presley. You know him, I hate him, he’s still popular 47 years after he passed. 

Elvis Presley, often referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll,” revolutionized popular music with his distinctive voice, energetic performances and charismatic persona. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1935, Presley burst onto the music scene in the mid-1950s, captivating audiences with his dynamic blend of rockabilly, rhythm and blues and country music. His hits such as “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” propelled him to unparalleled fame and earned him a place in music history. He has had book after film after biopic made after him. 

Priscilla Presley, born Priscilla Ann Wagner, is an American actress and businesswoman best known for her marriage to Elvis Presley. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1945, Priscilla met Elvis when she was just 14 years old while he was stationed in Germany during his military service. Their relationship blossomed, and they married in 1967, eventually welcoming their daughter, Lisa Marie, into the world. Priscilla played a significant role in preserving Elvis’s legacy after his death, overseeing Graceland and managing his estate. Beyond her association with Elvis, Priscilla pursued her own career in acting, starring in films and television shows, and later becoming involved in various business ventures. Throughout her life, Priscilla Presley has remained a cultural icon, admired for her grace, style and enduring connection to Elvis Presley.

In 2022, the biopic Elvis was created, starring Austin Butler as Elvis Presley, Tom Hanks as “Colonel” Tom Parker and Olivia DeJonge as Priscilla Presley. This biopic is all about Elvis’s life and his career from the beginning, performing in front of Tom Parker in a very Dreamgirls-esque scene, all the way to his death in 1977. This movie is Elvis propaganda to a T, with the director, Baz Luhrman, taking every chance possible to make me feel bad about Elvis, mentioning his bad deal with his manager, having to give 50 percent of his earnings (which he thoroughly agreed to????) and the drugs he took and how overworked he was and the fact that he never became the movie star he wanted to be.

But they forgot to mention his 14 year old girlfriend. Convenient, huh?

But that’s funny, right? A biopic that is supposed to tell the life and death of this big music star…forgets the parts that make you realize how awful of a person he was. Yes, they talk about Priscilla, she’s in the movie, of course, she’s his wife, but she gets mentioned right before they got married and then she becomes important after she’s a grown woman and she’s pregnant with their child, Lisa Marie Presley. 

And I know what you’re saying: “But Venus, what if I want to know all about how disgusting of a person Elvis was and how he fell for a 14 year old girl and was abusive and how he cheated on her through every point of their relationship?”

Well, my lovely reader, this is where Priscilla (2023) comes in. 

Priscilla is a biopic that was just recently released in 2023 that stars Cailee Spaeny as Priscilla Presley and Jacob Elordi (<3333333 A/N: I LOVE this man) as Elvis Presley. This movie is all about Priscilla, from when she first meets Elvis at 14 while her family was stationed in Germany until she finally leaves him in 1972. This biopic actually goes in depth on every aspect of their relationship, how close he was with her, how he didn’t miss how he felt about this 14 year old girl, how he constantly called her “little one” and how he was an all around creep in every sense of the word. We learn how Elvis basically ghosted her for two years after going back to America, how he would flirt with women in front of her, how she knew he was cheating, him getting her hooked on Placidyl and how he never let her have a life that didn't involve him. How he dictated every aspect of her life, how she dressed, what makeup she did, how she spoke to others; he was in control of all of that, from the moment he met her. Priscilla even mentions in her book, which the movie is entirely based on, that Elvis was like her God:

“He taught me everything: how to dress, how to walk, how to apply makeup and wear my hair, how to behave, how to return love – his way. Over the years he became my father, husband, and very nearly God.” 

Gross, right?

But think about that for a moment, just look how different those two movies are. It’s crazy when you can tell who told the story. With Elvis, you can tell that the director didn’t want to disrespect Elvis and was telling all the good parts of him and making the viewer sympathetic towards him. And then, Priscilla is from the point of view of the person who was actually married to him, the person who was with him from 24 all the way to his death. Priscilla is solely based on the book that she wrote, entitled Elvis and Me, and Priscilla is the executive producer of the movie, so she helped with creation and things involving the movie. So think about that: one movie is by a person who obviously respected Elvis, which did nothing but praise him, and then Priscilla was partially made by the person who knew Elvis best, and this movie showed all sides of him: the bad, the worse and the so much worse.

Put yourself in Priscilla Presley’s shoes once you know her story; you fall in love with a man ten years older than you when you have just graduated middle school, you go through hell with this man, having every aspect of your life controlled by him and knowing that there will always be another woman in the photo but you still love him. And then you lose him, you lose the man that you were attached to for the last 20 years, the man you did literally everything with is gone, but no one knows the full story. And then all of these movies get made about him and praise him to high heaven but they never tell the full story, so you have. And that is exactly what she did.

Priscilla Presley has to be the definition of a girlboss. The way she completely made her own life after leaving the bag of dust she was married to, she did her own thing. She took care of herself and her daughter, she became a businesswoman, she was in different movies, she took care of Graceland (Elvis’s Estate) once Elvis passed and believe me, she’s not stupid. One of the roles of an executive producer is to oversee the casting process, and she wasn’t gonna go with Austin “I can’t get rid of the accent” Butler. There’s a reason she decided to go with a 6’5″ Australian actor who had just finished being in an incredible movie that did very well at the box office and whose name everyone knew. She knew what she was doing when she chose Jacob Elordi for that role. And same with Cailee, who obviously had to remind Priscilla of herself since she is in fact playing her. But her decision was so smart; Cailee looked like her the entire time, from 14 all the way until the end and she got the mannerisms down. 

And I would get into the height difference but then this article would turn into “Venus barks for Jacob Elordi for ten minutes.” That’s for next time. 

But back to what I was saying, Priscilla was gonna get her story told no matter what, and she did. Do you know how popular that movie was? I’m still seeing reels of the one wedding scene, yes it is from delusional girlies who imagine their weddings with their crush (me fr), but it still counts. 

So, to wrap this up, I want you to go watch Elvis and then watch Priscilla right after and you’ll be able to point out the biases in those movies (especially in Elvis). Go see just how Laz Burhman shows Elvis and how you never see anything bad about him get mentioned in the movie, besides the fact that he was a womanizer, which everyone already knew about. And then right after go see the full story, from the mouth of the woman who was married to him, who knew him best besides MAYBE his manager and you’ll be able to see what I mean. And then, laugh at the “I’m gonna be a daddy” scene in Priscilla for me (Jacob I’m sorry I love you), and then the “Lord Have Mercy” scene in Elvis, it truly is the best part of those movies.

Venus Martinez is new to Her Campus. They are a Psychology major with a minor in Human Development. They dream of standing in front of Jacob Elordi and making eye contact with them. Their main hobby is falling for men who are borderline red flags. In their free time, they like to yap, listen to music, fail at cross-stitching, buy new silly earrings, save edits of men who will never know them, cry over the fact that BTS is in the military, and try to learn K-pop dances. They want you to stream Earth, Wind, and Fire by BoyNextDoor because it is an amazing song that you should totally listen to and it would change your life.