If you’re anything like me, you’ve been crying and wringing your hands over the fact that no matter how many stars you wish on or how many times you use “The Secret,” it’s looking like The Punk Singer is never coming to your town. But guess what? You can rent it on iTunes! Hooray for the internet! You’ve saved me again!
Tracy and I had a date last night to watch it together and it was magical. I know everybody has their own Kathleen Hanna/”Bikini Kill changed my life” bla bla story, but there’s a reason for it. Bikini Kill DID change everything. Not to say that there weren’t great feminist/female icons already out there, but Bikini Kill really spoke to the urgency and feelings of being fed up that I had as an angry young feminist trying to put words to what I was already thinking and feeling.
I didn’t discover Bikini Kill’s music until after they had broken up. At the time, Tracy and I were roommates. I bought her The Singles for her birthday without ever hearing more than one or two songs. I remember us getting in the car and putting it on and hearing “New Radio” come bleeding through the stereo and we were both like “YES! THIS! EXACTLY!” We had both been listening to a lot of riot grrrl and riot grrrl influenced music, but hearing this vibrated on the same frequency as our souls and caused giant sparkles and rainbows to come shooting out of our hearts. Bikini Kill was angry and funny and loud and unapologetic and everything I needed. Revolution girl style Now! Not down the road. Not “maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true.” It was a call to arms. Don’t wait for someone to give you the power, take it! And here’s how! Their lyrics were practically an instruction manual for what should have been the obvious:
You’re a big girl now
You’ve got no reason not to fight
You’ve got to know what they are
‘fore you can stand up for your rights
You DO have rights
How can you listen to them and NOT want to form a band or DO something? (Which was the whole point, I suppose. Duh.)
Even if you’ve never listened to Bikini Kill or Julie Ruin or Le Tigre, watch The Punk Singer and be inspired. The film covers a lot more ground and history than I was expecting, everything from Hanna’s college days to the origins of riot grrl, the formation of Bikini Kill and Hanna’s subsequent music projects to her recent battle with Lyme disease. I would be lying if I said I didn’t shed a misty-eyed tear over the sweetness of Hanna’s relationship with husband, Adam Horovitz. Hanna sets the record straight and dispels a lot of myths and rumors. One of the many things I admire about Hanna is her insistence on control. Whether it’s directing a crowd on how to behave at her shows, calling for a media blackout after riot grrrl had been misrepresented by the mainstream media, tackling her health issues head on or even having the final say on who gets to appear in the film. It was very apparent that the only interviews that made the final cut were people who were actually there when certain events happened or people who actually know her or the subject about which they are speaking. It’s a film about a feminist icon who helped to invigorate the feminist movement for a whole new generation – no need to fill up screen time with a bunch of dudes for the sake of star power (thank you). The film is just as much a tribute to Sini Anderson, who did a phenomenal job – a film like this was long, long overdue! Sini, I hope to see more films like this from you very soon! Watch The Punk Singer! And if you’re lucky, go see The Julie Ruin live when they come to your town (check here for tour dates)!