photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
this was a fun film.
BAD REPUTATION (MAGNOLIA, 2018) is a recent documentary that examines the career and cultural legacy of legendary badass musician JOAN JETT. she is that rare icon where labels like "trailblazer" or "pioneer" dont really do her legacy justice. she is basically an institution unto herself, from her late 70s all-female band THE RUNAWAYS, to her production work with the likes of BIKINI KILL, CIRCUS LUPUS, THE GERMS and, of course, her successful solo career with numerous hit singles.
but what really defines her career are the glass ceilings she shattered. its absolutely staggering to consider the intestinal fortitude it took as a female teenager in the 1970s to start a band. this was during the peak of the GLAM ROCK/GLITTER scene in HOLLYWOOD and the industry was geared towards an industry that saw women more as accessories then equals on the stage. this was ROCK AND ROLL and not FOLK MUSIC from the 1960s, so JETT and her bandmates went full bore into and took the full brunt of CHAUVINISM and outright MISOGYNY head on. as teenagers. just blows my mind.
and its that passion, determination and authenticity as a ROCK AND ROLL lifer, notwithstanding her own innate talent, that her public persona is built upon and has garnered her respect from generations of musicians including a murderer's row of notable participants documentary including former and current BLACKHEARTS members as well as IGGY POP (THE STOOGES), DEBBIE HARRY & CHRIS STEIN (BLONDIE), KATHLEEN HANNA (BIKINI KILL), IAN MACKAYE (MINOR THREAT, FUGAZI), MILEY CYRUS, BILLIE JOE ARMSTRONG (GREEN DAY), ALISON MOSSHART (THE KILLS), PETE TOWNSEND (THE WHO), PHANIE DIAZ (FEA, GIRL IN A COMA), MIKE NESS (SOCIAL DISTORTION), LAURA JANE GRACE (AGAINST ME!) and ADAM HOROWITZ (BEASTIE BOYS). likewise the film also includes interviews with those that have commented on her LGBTQ and ANIMAL RIGHTS activism over the years including MICHELLE CHO (formerly of PETA) and GENE BAUER (FARM SANCTUARY), MICHAEL J FOX (who co-starred with her in LIGHT OF DAY) as well as notorious graffiti artist SHEPARD FAIREY. for some unknown reason disgraced TRUMP ADMINISTRATION official NIKKI HALEY was interviewed as well (?), which was more than a little weird and i may or may not have thrown up in my mouth, but thats neither here nor there.
the focus of much of the documentary is JETT's post-RUNAWAYS career and her involvement with the unlikely producer and former BUBBLEGUM POP songwriter KENNY LAGUNA, who was both her confidant and familial support system throughout the rest of her career to date. theyre an odd couple of sorts, but that level of platonic intimacy and constant arguing and bickering is entirely endearing as they both care about one another. that core supporting relationship (which also included LAGUNA's wife MERYL) was what turned her career from what possibly could have been another cautionary tale to one of hard fought and enduring success. it must of been so difficult to stomach and push ahead despite male rock critics and DJS publicly debasing her work (and her physical being) along tired SEXIST tropes. and she pushed forward with such a sense of confidence and cool. i cant imagine.
for me the other artist that comes immediately to mind with a similar revolutionary career trajectory is that of LITTLE RICHARD who fought his way out of MACON, GEORGIA in the 1950s as a GAY, BLACK musician and ultimately became an architect of ROCK AND ROLL itself. and i think there is reason that the JETT and RICHARDS are so cherished by ROCK AND ROLL fans beyond their music, its that idea that they fought and suffered for their art. they both had that sense of determination, passion and sheer defiance that allowed them to make their mark despite the odds.
and how can you not love that. like i said, i really enjoyed this film. definitely required viewing for all music lovers.
all hail JOAN JETT!