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“I Wanna Be Where the Boys Are”: The Trailblazing Band The Runaways

May 2, 2010

Cross-posted at Impulse Thoughtz

For a band with a short stint of only four years, The Runaways forever impacted the world of music.  Joan Jett, the leader and the most successful member, is a rock goddess who has contributed those delightfully screeching vocals to more soundtracks and commercials than you can imagine.  These five fearless teens took the rock scene by storm in 1976 with their first self-titled album. The Runaways went on to produce twelve albums as well as separate solo projects.  Joan Jett being the innovator she is has nine top 40 singles and 8 platinum and gold records.   Their music will live forever and thanks to this film directed by Floria Sigismondi, my generation can truly understand the importance of this first all-girl rock group. 

This is not a film for the faint of heart—remember  it is set in the 70s where drugs were as prevalent as Lifesavers and pre-AIDS apathy was especially strong in L.A.  The band’s quick rise to fame is largely due to Joan Jett, portrayed by a mesmerizing Kristen Stewart.   I am deeply devoted to Stewart anyways, but I consider this performance enough to make all the haters quit with the Twilight typecasting (cough cough Perez Hilton cough).  Shockingly Dakota Fanning channels fifteen year old growling songstress and wild child Cherie Currie brilliantly. The film is loosely based on Currie’s 1989 memoir Neon Angel: The Cherie Currie Story.  Therefore, the movie predominantly focuses on Currie and her experiences with The Runaways.

Of course like all films, it has its slow and anticlimactic moments.  It unfortunately leaves out a lot of background information and depicts Jett as playing second fiddle to Currie, when in actuality The Runaways was Jett’s idea and her project.  She wrote their first single “Cherry Bomb” on the day of Currie’s tryout for the group.  This scene is pivotal and extremely accurate according to Currie’s memoir.  Although for some unexplained reason, Currie’s rape at age 15 by her twin sister’s boyfriend right before her rock n’ roll stardom is specifically cut from the film.  This incident in her life inspired Currie’s short blonde David Bowie-esque cut that trademarked The Runaways’ image and style.  Why would something so pertinent to the band’s image be left out of the biopic?  “Rated R for language, drug use and sexual content – all involving teens”—Right, thanks MPAA, but what about addressing a traumatic event that many girls have experienced?  It seems like Sigismondi could have taken this as an opportunity to portray Currie’s form of recovery, rejuvenation, and discovery.  I believe her Bowie cut represented a young victim wanting to appear masculine in order to be the sexual strong rock goddess The Runaways expected her to be.  One single titled “I Wanna be Where the Boys Are” says it all, rebellion and imitation in order to fit in and infiltrate the enemy.  This incident is just another way these girls fought gender adversity through their music, appearance, and personal lives.

The Runaways Trailer

The film is a story of female empowerment with a strong dose of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.  The Runaways sold their raw, rough, and achy sound as well as the sexiness of teen angst.  Besides the fact that they succeeded at something that was traditionally male, they also were ahead of their time in showing the wild, unruly side of women.  Unafraid of consequences or appearances, the girls showed their true intentions and hormonal feelings about sex, like their male counterparts.  The Sex Pistols whined and whined about horny, erotic and most likely bad sex.  The Runaways growled and roared claiming, “Hello world!  I’m your wild girl.”  At the age of sixteen, the original five stormed the all-boys club of rock with a vengeance.  Using what set them apart from the rest, their sexuality, they took to a stage all their own.  The Runaways’ influence can be seen everywhere from the 90s Seattle grunge group The Gits, to the riot grrrl movement, to today’s hellion Peaches.  Go forth and meet The Runaways, young ones.

Sarah Olivo is a recent graduate of East Tennessee State University with a major in Women’s Studies.  She is a writer, artist, activist and plans on pursing a career in nonprofit fundraising. She is currently living in Asheville, N.C.

One Comment
  1. Alicia permalink
    May 2, 2010 11:54 am

    i can’t wait to watch this movie 🙂 and i didn’t know that they left out a rape scene- that’s kind of surprising as it seems a movie like this might tend to go for shock value on some level. oh well i guess they wanted to avoid an R rating .. whatev

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