The Runaways - An SSL Review

The Runaways
So, I like Joan Jett. I'm not like a big fan. I'm not, like, listening to all her albums and reading all kinds of shit about her. I'm not that kind of music person. I'm a casual music lover. A fair weather fan. I ain't out there looking for the coolest new thing - I just really enjoy that cool new thing after it's popular enough for me to find out about it. So, Joan Jett - she's cool. I like the music of hers I know. I always thought she seemed badass, and she had a badass look. Her Joan Jett and the Blackhearts hits were coming out in my 1st decade of life, so it seems like I've always known them and known of her. I hadn't given her much deep thought though, and didn't really know her history.

On a recent lazy Saturday, I watched a shit ton of movies and one was The Runaways about the all girl (and I do mean girl - they were all high school age) rock band founded in 1975 by Joan Jet and drummer Sandy West. They had one hit you might know, Cherry Bomb (I have a performance of this in Japan below).  I really enjoyed this movie - it's a solid biopic, and although I don't believe it's 100% accurate, from what I've read of it, the spirit is there. Honestly, that's all you can hope from a good biopic, because they are all a little pretend. It's the way of things.

The movie on top of being entertaining, badass, and informative, also had a couple SSL Reviewable moments, and that's why I'm here today. An SSL Review, for those that need a little refresher is a review specifically of any discussion or depiction of female orgasm, female masturbation, or the clit. I critique the realism of the depiction/discussion and also write about what the depiction/discussion says about and/or adds to our cultural understanding of female sexuality and orgasm. I try my best to just stick specifically to those SSL Reviewable moments, so it usually stays pretty focused on those moments in the movie only. So here we go. I have tons of these reviews btw. You can find all the other movie SSL Reviews HERE and the TV SSL Reviews HERE.

I'm going to describe the 2 SSL Reviewable scenes first and then discuss them both at the end.

Ladies rockin' the fuck out is like ladies demanding orgasms
So in the movie, the Runaways are practicing in this trailer. There's 4 women in the band, but they are auditioning a lead singer, Cherie Currie, that they recruited because of her look...well they and this dude Kim Fowley, who is the music producer who loved the idea of an all-girl rock band when Joan and Sandy brought it to them. So, this cute, blonde 15 year old comes into the trailer and they are having her try to sing some gritty punk music. She's a bit weak at first and she's a bit unsure about saying some of the dirtier things in it. So Kim Fowley gives her this enthusiastic little monologue as a pep talk.
Okay Listen. Rock and roll is a blood sport. It's a sport of men. It is for the people in the dark. The death cats. The masturbators. The outcasts who have no voice, no way of saying, 'Hey I hate the fucking world. My father's a faggot. Fuck you. Fuck authority. I want an orgasm!' Now growl, moan. This isn't about women's lib, kiddies. This is about women's libido. I want to see the scratch marks down their fucking backs. Alright do it again...like....like your sister just fucked your boyfriend in your parent's bed. Like you want a fucking orgasm!"
I mean it kinda works. She gets grittier after that.

Friend don't let friend leave their teens without being able to orgasm
The gals are out on the road in shitty hotels, and it cuts to Joan Jett sitting just outside the hotel bathroom.
Sandy: (from the bathroom off camera) It still isn't working. The dicks aren't even hard.
We see Sandy in the bathroom looking at porn mags. She's on the toilet trying to rub her vulva and the mags are strewn on the floor and in her other hand.
Joan: Are you rubbing?
Sandy: Yeah. I think I'm doing it wrong.
Joan: Try using the shower head. Now think about someone you have a crush on
We see that Sandy is in the shower now. The water's running, and we see one leg lift up and plant itself against the wall so she can have better access to her junk.
Sandy: It's still not working
Joan: How about Farrah Fawcett. You like her?
Sandy: Yeah. Who doesn't? 
She's still in shower with leg up - the shower curtain is covering the rest of her body. We can tell the shower head is likely pointed right at her lady junk. Then we here a kind of dull 'uh...'
Sandy: Wait, I think I feel something.
We hear some more gentle uhhs, then a gentle 'oh shit' as we see her body kind of slide down the shower wall. Joan is listening outside and when Sandy says 'oh shit' - Joan rams the pocket knife she's been playing with into the wall in front of her kind of in celebration.

I mean, right on, right?
First off, what a good goddamn friend to hang in there with you while you figure out how to masturbate yourself to orgasm. That's a true friend. For real though, I love this scene. To begin with, it's physiologically reasonable. I mean, it has all the elements that are realistically needed for a female to orgasm. She's stimulating the vulva/clit area, first by rubbing it with her hand and then by stimulating it with a water stream. Both are viable ways to stimulate the clit to orgasm. The other part is that she is striving for arousal, first by shitty porn mags and then by thinking about Farrah Fawcett. The same things don't work for everyone, but we all need to somehow get our brains aroused so that our genitals get aroused, because you can't really orgasm - which is the release of muscle tension and blood congestion brought on by arousal - without actually being aroused. So the realism part of this scene is on point.

The other element of this scene is just that it's just plain bad ass and dripping with respect and esteem for the lady-gasm. It's saying something about the power of it. A clear theme in this movie overall is women, girls really, boldly jumping into an arena that wasn't really open to them, being wild and burn-this-shit-down uninhibited in a way no one thought they deserved, taking up space because they wanted to. Now, we already heard Kim's speech saying that this band was not about women's lib. It was about women's libido. As audience members we already have the idea that rock and roll is about about the type of taking-what-you-want that getting your orgasm is. And then we actually see these gals supporting each other in literally getting that orgasm, getting that satisfaction, taking up that space, it's poignant, I think. It quite rightly acknowledges the deeper power that authentic sexuality has to a person's sense of what they deserve in life and of what space they can take up in the world. It also very correctly seems to align female sexual power, not with sexiness, but with sexualness - with the power to get the orgasm you deserve.

This movie could, because lots do, depict female sexual power as women 'being as sexy as they want to be.' It's bullshit. There is, of course, some amount of power for anyone in being desired, fantasized about, and giving pleasure, and women clearly have a lot of space to do this in our culture, but the real power is also in unabashedly desiring, in fantasizing, and in getting pleasure (orgasm specifically). Women really don't have a lot of space in this world to do that, and so taking that space is kinda revolutionary - even, sadly, to this day.

Vulva Rating
The Runaways was unexpectedly full of female sexual empowerment. It bucked the idea that ladies can't rock, and it bucked the idea that female sexuality is about being sexy for men. Ladies can in fact rock, and ladies have a sexuality within them, a desire, that is about getting rather than giving orgasms. That, my friends, is important. Women need to know it's okay to be selfish, to desire, fantasize, and demand orgasms, need to see that these are parts of being a sexual person. This movie adds that element to the cultural conversation. It's taking the conversation forward not backwards or standing us still. Also, the depiction of orgasm was realistic, the physical thing happening is sensibly a thing that could cause a lady to get off. Those two things together give this movie a 5 out of 5 vulva rating from me.


No comments:

Post a Comment