‘Bad Reputation': Kevin Kerslake’s documentary is a ‘Behind The Music’esque love letter to Joan Jett
Renowned music video director and documentarian Kevin Kerslake tells the story of Joan Jett at a time when women need it the most
In the midst of the #MeToo era, Kevin Kerslake’s newest documentary 'Bad Reputation' is about the life and career of Joan Jett and couldn’t have come at a better time. Jett has been an icon for women for decades and truly paved the way for female rockers of the eighties and continued to do so today. In a re-telling of Jett’s life and career that can most accurately be compared to a superb elongated episode of VH1’s old docuseries 'Behind The Music', 'Bad Reputation' is a celebration of Jett and her music.
Assembled with a blend of interviews and archived footage, 'Bad Reputation' begins its story with Jett’s early teen years when she got her first guitar. The narrative quickly transitions to the formation of her first band, the infamous all-female The Runaways.
There have been several narratives of what really went on in this legendary girl group that stayed together for just about four years, however in this film we actually get to hear it from Jett herself.
While most stories about Jett revolve exclusively around The Runaways, 'Bad Reputation' doesn’t go as in depth, since the film is a look at Jett’s entire life and her time with the rock girl band was just a sliver. However, The Runaways is what truly put Jett on the map and is what first comes to mind when we think of her even today. Kerslake obviously wanted to focus on other facets of Jett’s life, but there was certainly more story to be told and was the only part of the film that was lacking.
'Bad Reputation' quickly moves on to the next stage of Jett’s life and career - her partnership with songwriter and producer Kenny Laguna. Laguna’s bubblegum roots somehow matched well with Jett’s sexy, female rocker-driven brand which then led her to form a more lasting band, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. The rest truly is history, and through the film, we see her talent and career evolve into to make her one of the most legendary female icons of all time.
It’s a fascinating film, as Jett is still alive and well, unlike most subjects of documentaries. It would have been one thing if Jett didn’t make an appearance in the film and didn’t sign off on it, but she was clearly an instrumental part in making the movie what it was. Through current and past footage of Jett herself, it’s clear that neither she nor society, has changed all that much. The obvious amount of slack she received for being androgynous was severe, so much so that even women themselves were shaming her for not wanting to have kids or get married. This is shown in an interview from the eighties and is infuriating, on top of the fact that many men in the industry treated her with even less respect.
Jett was and still is one of a kind, even though she has inspired many that have either adapted her style or voice, including Miley Cyrus, Kathleen Hanna and Kristen Stewart, all of whom were featured in the film. Jett’s nonconformist attitude and originality are what make her one of the most influential and inspiring artistes of all time. She’s still here, and she’s still killing the game. 'Bad Reputation' is a reminder to not forget that, and not forget her.
'Bad Reputation' is now in select theaters nationwide and on demand.