Release of trailer for Elvis Presley biopic sparks debate about singer 'stealing music from Black artists' and 'grooming a 14yo'

The release of a trailer for Baz Lurhmann's upcoming Elvis Presley biopic has prompted a heated debate about the singer's life, including assertions he "stole his music from Black artists" and "groomed a 14-year-old girl". 

The first look at Elvis, in which the King of Rock 'N Roll' is played by Austin Butler, has drawn attention for all the wrong reasons, as online commentators question which parts of the music legend's life will be highlighted in the film. 

"Hope y'all include how he stole from Black culture since y'all announcing this during Black History Month," one Twitter user wrote in response to the trailer. 

"Is the part where Elvis ripped off his entire sound from Black artists shown?" another asked. 

"Elvis stole everything from Black artists. He was a great impersonator," said a third. 

One moment in the trailer shows a young Elvis wandering into a Black church in his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi, where he becomes overcome by the power of the gospel music being performed there. Later in his career, he would use elements of gospel interwoven with the sounds of country, blues and rock 'n roll. 

The question of how much the 'Hound Dog' singer borrowed and profited from the musical stylings and talent of the Black musicians of the 1950s has long been debated. Artists such as Big Joe Turner, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Bo Diddley enjoyed commercial success after Elvis' acceptance by mainstream audiences, however, many of those acts heavily influenced his music before he found fame. 

Fans of 'The King' rushed to his defence, arguing that Elvis was simply part of an industry in which performers have an effect on one another's work. 

"It's not shown because he never STOLE anything, it's called being influenced by other artists. Not really sure how you don't understand this. I mean, it would be like saying the Beatles stole the sound of Buddy Holly," one Twitter user wrote. 

Elsewhere, people honed in on Elvis' controversial relationship with Priscilla Presley, who he met when she was just 14 and he was 24. The pair dated on and off for a few years before Priscilla moved to Memphis, Tennessee to live with Elvis while she continued to go to high school. 

Elvis and Priscilla were married in 1967, when Priscilla was 21-years-old, and the couple welcomed their baby nine months later. Priscilla maintained the pair didn't fully consummate their marriage until their wedding night. 

"I wonder if they'll add his obsession with teenagers? And how his future wife was a kid when he noticed her?" one tweet said of the Elvis trailer. 

"Where is your outrage over the biopic ignoring Elvis grooming and molesting a 14 year old girl? Oh he is white. I get it," read another. 

The film's director, Baz Lurhmann, dubbed Elvis "the original punk" in speaking about his new film, adding: "He was wildly provocative ... there really were riots." 

Elvis is set to hit cinemas in June this year.