‘Bad Reputation’: Director Kevin Kerslake says Joan Jett is 'feminist manifesto in the flesh'
Kevin Kerslake, the director of the new Joan Jett documentary ‘Bad Reputation’, discusses the power behind Jett as an artist and feminist icon
Music video director and documentarian Kevin Kerslake has just released his newest film, the Joan Jett documentary ‘Bad Reputation’. Jett is not just one of the most iconic women in the music industry but she is also one of the biggest feminist icons of all time and had to go through great adversity to get to where she is today. Kerslake discussed what truly inspired him to make the film.
“The integrity that she has brought to her whole career in terms of making the music she wants to make and how she has powered through all sorts of adversity in her way was what really made me want to make this film. I think that Joan is sort of a feminist manifesto in the flesh. She does what she wants to do, speaks out for underdogs and people that have been less fortunate than her, and will go to the mat for every single one."
‘Bad Reputation’ couldn’t have come out at a better, more fortuitous time as this is a message that women need now more than ever. In the midst of the #MeToo era, Jett is a voice that needs to be heard and remembered. Ironically, the #MeToo movement had nothing to do with the making of this film, as the documentary was already in full swing when the movement itself started.
“We were already in the process of making the film when the #MeToo movement started. These are 24/7 issues that have existed even beyond the #MeToo movement, but the fact that this all happened when making the film, it was sort of a booster rocket that really put a charge under the film. And it just so happened that a lot of our themes were so in line with the movement.”
Most documentaries about celebrities typically focus on ones that have passed away and are no longer in the limelight. While some might consider Jett an icon of the past, that is far from the truth which Kerslake explores in the film. Jett is still making music, she’s still an activist, and is still an inspiration to young girls and women all over the world. With Jett’s full support, creative input and involvement in the film, there was no need to worry about her approval, as she’s truly an open book.
“There really aren’t any skeletons in Joan’s closet, so we didn’t have to bite our tongues, so to speak. But I think that the fact that Joan is still alive made it interesting to make. Death has a funny way of sort of handing you the third act of a lot of documentaries, so not having that and being liberated from that helped us embrace another opportunity, the promise of somebody’s life. Joan truly approached her life with a disregard of other people’s opinions and that can be a motivating force to do something you have been dying to do but never have.”
Jett has inspired countless artists and women, including some of the biggest names from the younger generation, including Miley Cyrus and Kristen Stewart, who feature in the film. Their involvement in the documentary was important because both women attribute so much of who they are to Jett.
You can see how Jett influenced both women by just admiring their style and non-conformist attitude, which shows the audience how relevant she still is today.
“Joan still means so much to so many girls. It was a really interesting opportunity to sort of throw every single generation into the mix. The fact that Joan is still relevant to this generation meant that we could tap into that mentality and younger celebrities. Obviously Miley Cyrus and Kristen Stewart have a very young appeal, but even going up a generation to Kathleen Hanna, it was a really important part of the story. Joan is here and now, and it was vital to have that in the film.”
Joan Jett is a woman to not be forgotten, especially during this imperative and challenging time for women. Through making the film, Kerslake says he learned about the struggles that women have to face everyday on a much deeper level than he had before.
“I know people who have endured all types of resistance at the hands of men and we read about it in the papers everyday. But when you start to break that down and how tedious and exhausting that is for women to deal with everyday and even every encounter, I think that was probably the most revolutionary aspect of doing the film, for me.”
‘Bad Reputation’ is currently in select theaters nationwide and is also available on demand.