Thursday, December 8, 2011

Movie Review: Don't Need You


When I was 13-15ish, which was about 15 years after the Riot Grrrl scene happened, I listened to a lot of rock music. I liked Green Day, Weezer, Trapt, Nirvana, Anti-Flag, Disturbed, the Dropkick Murphys, Earshot, A Perfect Circle, Rise Against, Three Days Grace, Puddle of Mudd, Chevelle, Breaking Benjamin, Fugazi, the Dead Kennedys, Smashing Pumpkins, Our Lady Peace... etc. There were two CDs I listened to in heavy rotation in like 2004 which were volume 1 and 2 of "Rock Against Bush," which were compilations of political punk music. There were a couple female bands or female fronted bands on the CDs (No Doubt, Sleater-Kinney, the Exposies, and the Soviettes), but every other band was a bunch of dudes.

I did listen to female artists, but it was much more sporadically. I had one playlist on my ipod that was like called "girl power" or something, and it was a mix of female artists, from every genre and decade because overwhelmingly the music that I listened to was male. So clearly I recognized that women did not feature heavily in my favorite music, but there wasn't really much that I did about it. I think mostly I didn't realize that there are female rockers out ther. There were a few that I really liked, like No Doubt and the Cranberries and Pat Benatar, but other than them, what female representation there was in my adolescent iTunes was mostly throw-back stuff like Destiny's Child or Natalie Imbruglia. (Which I still love)

I didn't know about Riot Grrrl until I got into college. Literally, I don't think I had ever heard of it, or if I had, just didn't pay attention. My male friends in high school, I am sure, had no idea, so all the recommendations I got for punk music were all male bands. And it wasn't really til my junior or senior year in high school but especially in college that I started to actively seek out female artists and listen to them.

This afternoon my friends Beth, Keiran and I went to a screening of "Don't Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl" at the library on campus, and after we saw it we talked about how they too listened to a lot of dude-rock in middle/high school, and only more recently have been seeking out female artists.

A lot of the research I've done in college is on media representation, and how oppressed groups negotiate their place in society and make it better by creating their own media and culture, and that's exactly what Riot Grrrl music did. The scene in the early 90s for punk was really dude-heavy, and the documentary looks at its origins by talking to old members of Riot Grrrl bands about how the scene developed. It's a short movie, like 40 minutes, and I think is really good at looking at why the scene was so important and why it's had this legacy, as well as what went wrong and how Riot Grrrl kind of fizzled out.

Another thing that I liked about the documentary is its frankness. The women in the movie (all big names in the Riot Grrrl scene) talk about how they weren't taken seriously as punk fans and then as musicians themselves just for being female. This is largely why I stopped listening to modern rock. In the early 2000's it was all about being angry and doing drugs and hate, and then there was this like, shift around 2005 where all of a sudden songs were about doing these things because of bitch ex-girlfriends. And like, not that I could reeeaaally relate to modern rock before that, but it got really misogynistic! And the sound changed, and got even dumber than it used to be. And when there's a scene that you like and want to be a part of but recognize is problematic and not what you want out of it... it's really easy to just leave. But what makes a difference is when you re-imagine it and do something to make it what you want. Watch the documentary! I'm listening to Bratmobile now and want to listen to female rockers forever aiaiaiaiaiaiaiaiiiieee!

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