• Brooke Nicholson

'Bad Reputation' Joan Jett documentary review

Kenae Frazier | Contributing Wrtier


Courtesy Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Joan Jett is a legend in music. She fought hard for equality in music, but a lot of her so called “bad reputation” diminishes people’s view of her. So, in her documentary, she sets the record straight about her career, personal life, struggles, redemption and her ultimate goal of women’s equality in music.


The documentary is essentially about Joan Jett’s long career and influence in rock music. The audience gets to see an inside look into her life through her narration. The audience gets to see her lowest of lows and the comebacks of her career that make her a legend in music. We are even treated to special footage of a young Joan Jett and we get to see her band, The Blackhearts, rehearsing for Warped Tour.


The opening sequence was incredibility done with an introduction of how Joan Jett got into music with the simple gift of a guitar for Christmas. There was a nice transition of her personal photos, the California rock scene and the influence it had on her teenage years.


Then we go on to her formation of the band, The Runaways, and how their message of equality was constantly overlooked by people judging their look instead of their music. How the first half played out and the narration of Joan really helped move it along.


The transitions started to get choppy and sloppy when the documentary progressed to the end of The Runaways and the beginning of the Blackhearts band. It begins to become fast paced and the introduction of new people who were important to her story was very fast and poorly done.


The overall tone of documentary was hopeful. Hopeful that whatever Joan was going through whether it was dealing with bottles being thrown at her or alcohol addiction issues, you were hopeful she would come out okay, and she did. There were also tones of sadness, which was short lived, because it’s Joan Jett, and she comes back from any adversity she has faced in life.


There wasn’t really anything that was memorable in the documentary other than her narration of recalling events that happen. Again, her narration is what keeps this documentary alive, because a lot of what is shown is just pictures and clips of her life.


It was also nice to see she had many guest appearances, not necessarily to talk about how great she was, but to talk about how important she was for music and for women. That was a really nice addition to the documentary.


To critique the film, it's not something to see twice. Another documentary about Joan Jett would be cool because she is just so interesting, and because she contributes so much to feminism. This documentary was overall poorly done, but not the worst. Without the narration of Joan and having to rely on other people to tell the story, it would have been a disorganized, train wreck, rollercoaster experience that you would demand your money back from.


What really hurt this documentary was how fast-paced it was and the lack of explanation of essential important people to her story. The Runaways portion of the documentary was really short and there wasn’t really any explanation of who they were. It gave an overview of what she was going through with the band, but it didn’t really touch on why the band broke up. It felt kind of rushed to get the part where she started struggling with addiction.


What also hurt was the character introduction and the explanation of their role in her life. I had to go and look more into Kim Foley because he was not adequately explained further than a greedy manager who ruined The Runaways, it would have been nice to see more of a good side to him instead of someone who took advantage of a group.


Also, Kenny Laguna, I thought he was just a description of what was cool in rock music at the time, I didn’t know he would progress to be a focal reason for Joan’s career’s comeback. This documentary does not feel like a smooth walk down memory lane, the audience is literally being dragged by our shirts on this bumpy ride.


As far as her being deemed as a “legend," it was necessary, but also poorly done. We got introduced to stories that were not given good endings. I wanted to know more about the Bikini Kill and The Gits beyond the point of Mia devastating death. They should have kept it specifically at the bands she personally helped instead of the bands who were inspired by her, because there didn’t feel a connection between her and the lead singer of Bikini Kills.


In conclusion, this is not a documentary that you can watch without knowing the history of Joan Jett’s career. This is more for people who do not have an inside idea of what happened in her long career, but those who are only focused on her “bad reputation."


It was an okay documentary for anyone who does not have a clue to Joan Jett’s life and career, but it could be deemed an awesome documentary to people who already know how important she is. Especially in feminism and women in music making their mark beyond how good they look or how bad they can be.

Mace & Crown

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