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CULTURE

Joan Jet Documentary ‘Bad Reputation’ Celebrates the Legacy of a Badass

Screenshot of Joan Jett rocking the stage in her new documentary Bad Reputation
Joan Jett broke barriers, smashed glass ceilings and cracked a few ribs in her rise through Rock N Roll. Image via YouTube

The new documentary Bad Reputation gives you a behind the scenes look at Joan Jett’s wild ride and rise through the music industry.

The focus of a new documentary called Bad Reputation, veteran rock star Joan Jett sat down for an interview with Refinery29, discussing how gender played a crucial role in the challenges she faced on her musical journey.

It was not an easy path when she formed an all-female rock band, The Runaways, in the 1970s — in an industry that is arguably still male-dominated today. However, she eventually triumphed as a respected musician and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

Her full story is revealed in Bad Reputation, which premiered on September 28.

Joan Jett Talks Feminism in Bad Reputation

When asked about the role of feminism in her band’s early days, Jett said that the term was still new at the time and that it occasionally conflicted with her own motives.

“I definitely felt criticism from aspects of that movement who were uncomfortable with the fact that young girls and teenagers want to have sex and talk about sex. You don’t just dismiss that aspect of being a woman,” Jett said.

Jett went on to explain that Rock n’ Roll is innately “sexual” and that this should be embraced for its virtues— not feared for its potential limitations and dangers.

“It’s frustrating when you’re taking crap from women when you’re trying to follow your dreams. Your parents always told you that you could be whatever you wanted to be, and now you’ve got these women telling you that you can’t for some political reason you don’t yet understand. I didn’t get it.”

“The problem with labels is they have boundaries, you know?” Joan continued. “What a feminist is to one person is not the same thing [to another]. I’m for people being what they want to be; if that’s a woman being a rock ‘n’ roller or a nuclear physicist, which may not be fields women typically go into. You can’t let other people dictate your life to you. I know I’m a woman, I knew I was a girl, but I’m going to do what I’m going to do. I didn’t get caught up in the gender role of it. That’s what I was fighting against the whole time, the fact that people were saying girls can’t play rock ‘n’ roll. It didn’t make logical sense to me.”

Don’t Tell Joan Jett ‘No’

Indeed, in the trailer for her new documentary Bad Reputation, the rock star defiantly quipped: “Tell me I can’t do something and you be sure I’m gonna be doing it.”

Jett explained that her motives were always purely musical and artistic at the core too.

“[The Runaways] were trying to express ourselves the way we knew how, putting it into our songs,” Jett said. “Not much different than what the Rolling Stones were doing. We didn’t want barriers put up on what we were allowed to sing about, say, or play.”

When asked if the music industry has changed for women today, Jett was wary.

“I think it’s still very much the same as it was many years ago. The appearance is that women have come a lot further, and maybe on some levels they have, but until women really get into positions of power, where they’re making the money decisions of where this and that dollar goes, and are in the upper echelons of things across the board, which is going to take time, I don’t think things will change that much. Because they have not until now. We’re still fighting the same issues that I was discussing years ago.”

Jett believes that the gender stereotypes plaguing us could be avoided by teaching our kids how to treat others.

“Addressing gender issues and what we say to each other, it starts early. We need to focus on how [young] boys and girls treat each other.”

Bad Reputation is in theaters nationwide now.

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