Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation

“Film Review: Bad Reputation” (Magnolia Pictures, Directed by Kevin Kerslake)

By Katy Dang

“Joan Jett was nobody’s sidecar.”

Iggy Pop, from the film “Bad Reputation”


Out September 28, 2018, in Theaters and streaming on Demand on Amazon & iTunes

If anyone is due for a truly kick-ass documentary, it is definitely Joan Jett.

There is no one like Joan Jett. She has been playing rock and roll since 1975, experiencing all of the inherent, grotesque sexism that the music business and society had to offer and persevering over the last 40+ years. Not just persevering: kicking ass.

Her story is a journey through the history of rock and roll, from seeing the punk scene first hand in London with the Runaways (“I went over there a glitter person and came home dressed as a punk,” she says) to producing the first Germs LP in Los Angeles, to making her own way in the rock scene of New York and becoming a mainstay on a new station called MTV on a little something called cable television. Since then, she has not only kept rocking on her own, but also championed other female-led rock bands and provided real, actual support to the girls carrying the torch that she lit.

This is an exceptionally well-made documentary, over-flowing with photos from her career that any fan would want to see. Joan talks straight into the camera, giving an honest account of her struggles and successes and stating outright what it is like to be a woman in the world of rock and roll. The first 2/3rds of the film are a cacophony of music and images that you want to see over and over. The later interviews with other rockers/fans are standard fare from the usual cast and don’t add much to her story, although her contemporaries Iggy Pop, Debbie Harry and Chris Stein provide great insight. (Iggy Pop singing “Alley Oop” is worth noting). It’s the woman herself and the people that she trusted with her world—Kenny Laguna and his family– that really get the story across, including Kenny’s wife Merrill, who saw a picture of Joan and told him to connect with her, and his daughter, Carianne, who now runs Blackheart Records. The combination of menace and pop sensibility that Joan and Kenny put forth is unrivalled.

Do you love rock and roll? Of course you do. Check out this film that will remind you why you do about the woman that grabbed the music by the balls and staked her claim as one of its best.