That girl thinks she's the queen of the neighborhood
She's got the hottest dyke in town
That girl she holds her head up so high
I think I wanna be her best friend, yeah
Rebel girl, Rebel girl
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world
Rebel girl, Rebel girl
I think I wanna take you home
I wanna try on your clothes oh
-"Rebel Girl" Bikini Kill
I have no idea if the above lyrics were written for Joan Jett but they sure as hell could have been. She did, however, produce and play on the track.
I finally saw The Runaways flick the other day after waxing rhapsodic in hysterical anticipation about it all over the internets. I didn't see it right away pretty much because of equal parts fear of a let down and the enjoyment of the anticipation. This month has been about all kinds of delayed pleasures, with my veiled and tiresomely vague mentions of making out on park benches, and maybe after all the disappointments in the past, both romantic and cinematic, for a while pleasurable anticipation seemed the way to go. But anticipation is over and done with and gone on all fronts, and The Runaways was awesome and so is the over the top intensity of a brand new romantic entanglement.
As anyone who is a part of any kind of group that has been marginalized by the larger culture knows - whether you're a girl or queer or black or whatever - there is art that is outside the culture looking in, which isn't necessarily terrible, but doesn't so much speak to the people inside the group as to the people outside of it, and then there is art that is positioned inside, shooting outwards. The Runaways film made by first time feature director Floria Sigismondi (she's directed tons of music videos and done lots of installations and video art) definitely lives inside of girl culture and is filmed from that perspective. There have been some (understandable) complaints that the film should have been more overtly queer, but, like, baby steps. Susie Bright's amazing blog post on the film and about the LA '70s underground punk dyke groupie slut subculture is a total must read. What's kind of interesting and sad to me is that the reaction of some men to the film ("Hot teen girls!") has been pretty much exactly the reaction to the original Runaways back in the '70s ("Hot teen girls!").
So many of the problems with many movies about teen girls stem from the fact that they are made by men who don't understand teen girls at all. There has been gallons of ink spilled on how teen boys view teen girls and about objectification and sex and bros before hos and on and on. Now, in many narratives, teen girls are seen as being much more relationshippy and full of Deep Feelings about the boys in their lives and have all these Important and Meaningful Thoughts about Boys and on and on. Look. I will fully admit I know absolutely nothing about teen boys. I started dating boys when I was a teen, and I think maybe I have a tiny handle on grown up men people after all these decades. But I know girls. Teen girls are Awful. They are solipsistic little monsters who gaze at themselves and each other endlessly and dramatically. And they are just as angered and mystified and often as bored and annoyed by boys as boys are by girls. The most important relationships in most girls' lives are with other girls. Boys are fun and all, but to many, many, many girls, it's other girls who Matter. I don't know why this is such a confusing concept. After all, when you're 15 (and sadly sometimes long after) Boys Are Stupid. Boys: whatever horrible things you think the girls in your class are thinking and saying about you, the reality is likely far, far worse. If they even bother to think about you at all.
You can pretty much judge the quality of a teen girl movie by seeing how important relationships with girls are compared to relationships with boys. Foxes (co-starring Cherie Currie). Clueless. Mean Girls. Ginger Snaps (the greatest Canadian teen girl werewolf movie ever made). All these films Get It. The Runaways is entirely about girls. Boys simply don't figure into it. They were all a bunch of baby dyke rock stars with no romantic attachments except possibly to each other. Does it get any cooler than that? This is one of those movies that reminded me completely viscerally how much fun it was to be really young and hot and bratty and immortal. I had so much fun back in the early '90s when I ran wild in the East Village in my vinyl boots (I had four pairs. FOUR.) and my burgundy suede hot pants and my vast collection of mini-skirts and my silver tights and and my black leather coat that I wore until it fell apart. But of course I was never a rock star as I was handicapped by the lack of even the smallest, rudimentary drop of musical ability. But I totally could have played one on TV. Oh, the arrogance.
Dakota Fanning is good as Cherie Currie. I do question the sad pouty face at the end, though. She has a crappy retail job post-Runaways, post-rehab and I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for her, but she got to be a ROCK STAR for a minute and a half. From what we saw of her home life, without the rock star interlude she likely would have been working a similarly shitty job in the Valley. So. Hair aside, she doesn't look much like Currie, but she does a nice job. I thought Kristen Stewart was awesome as Joan Jett. The slouch, the attitude, the reserve, that pretty face - she just nailed it. It was great to see her just killing it without being hampered by some fucking sparkly vampire.
I grew up worshipping at the shrine of Patti Smith, but as I've gotten older I've become slightly ambivalent about her. The thing with Patti is that she's pretty much always the only girl in the room. She's all about exceptionalism in some ways, which bugs me. I mean, has she ever even had a female friend? Joan Jett may be the opposite. She's done endless work on the behalf of other artists, working with The Germs, Bikini Kill, Bratmobile, The Gits and others throughout her career. She's still playing, still recording, still touring, and through some kind of deal with the devil she has managed to hardly age a day. And below are the real Runaways being big in Japan.