Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Punk Singer

Documentary film is one of my favorite genres. I will almost always watch a doc on just about any topic. I’ve seen films about everything from skateboarding to freemasonry. I love the idea that someone could have so much passion for a particular subject that they would make a film about it just to share that passion with others.

I came of age just as the riot grrrl movement was at its peak. As an angry/snotty teenager, I was definitely the target audience, but I could never relate to it for some reason. It’s not that I did not identify with feminism, the combination of the bad music and abrasive characters (notably Hanna) were a complete turn off for me.

I’m really struggling to say something positive about this film, but I am at a loss for words. I watched it in hopes that I would get a better understanding of where Hanna is coming from. I gathered nothing from this other than the fact that Hanna is still a bratty teenager trapped in a 40 something (apparently failing) body.

I understand that she was prominent in advocating a very important movement, but what did she actually contribute? Just the music alone from Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, Julie Ruin, etc. is so sophomoric it is almost embarrassing. Let’s face it; Kathleen Hanna is not a great lyricist. He rants resemble something I wrote in 10th grade. Her voice is earsplitting at some points, musically and just in general. They even address her “valley speak” vernacular in the film, but there is still no excuse for it.

Her stories are so self indulgent that I almost feel sorry for her. Just hearing Hanna describe how she “was SOOO wasted” while hanging out with Kurt Cobain is awful. I do not dislike Hanna because of her ideas or her past, I dislike her because she has nothing of substance to say. I feel like Hanna is the face of the riot grrrl movement in the same vain that Sid Vicious is the face of punk rock. Neither contributed anything to their respective genres excerpt for an aesthetic that certainly gives them far more credit than deserved.

I would love to see a doc on other key players from this movement like Kim Gordon. In some ways, I would Courtney Love (bitter rival) a more positive feminist than Kathleen Hanna. I guess if this film or the music of Bikini Kill encourages a young woman to further investigate feminism than that's one good thing to come out of this train wreck. I do respect her for her intentions; I just wish she had a more tactful way of expressing them.

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