"I OWN EVERYTHING"
That's from the quote ending Joan Jett's recent Nylon magazine interview. Rejected by 23 record companies, Jett and producer/business partner Kenny Laguna started their own independent label, Blackheart Records.
Now she owns rock and roll, Joan Jett style.
We're talking about this because The Runaways is currently driving my brain. That's what The Crushing Edge is about: the people, places, ideas and images that catch my attention and should catch yours. And ever since I saw a picture of Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, The Runaways has been waiting to roar into that position.
I've seen the movie twice, the second time with a notepad for analysis. Too many people aren't even seeing it once. That's why we need this conversation. To make sure you don't miss the inspiration you could take from it. To discuss ownership and how Joan Jett managed to become iconic even though women musicians were actively discouraged when she started out and she got no support from mainstream record labels.
Jett is driven. Jett is cocky. Jett has something so intense inside you can't look away from her eyes and her entire body is an atom splitting with explosive energy. Kristen Stewart captures that, adding on the thinnest layer of hesitation as the young Jett learns about people, music and business.
Jett has said how happy she is with Kristen Stewart's portrayal of her so I'm going to extrapolate from Stewart's performance for some thoughts on creativity, drive and how you succeed.
The Runaways is based on The Runaways lead singer's Cherie Currie's biography Neon Angel, Jett executive produced the movie and their characters as played by Dakota Fanning (Currie) and Stewart have the most to do. And they do it well (written and directed by Floria Sigismondi). From the very beginning, Stewart plays Jett as someone driven by music, even if she's still learning to play the guitar or isn't in a band, there are songs and chords that push their way out. Fanning does an excellent job of playing Currie as emptied, someone waiting -- for sensation, for something that felt right; someone hiding behind makeup and costumes, making up a life of lies to reinvent disappointments. When Currie auditions for the band and Jett and producer Kim Fowley come up with a new song for her to sing, you can see Stewart/Jett with her guitar willing the music into Fanning's Currie.
In this excellent Cinema Blend .com interview with Katey Rich, Jett talks about the movie and The Runaways, but also about her struggles to be able to work as a rock musician. Other people heard the music and focused on sex and rebellion but for Jett it was about claiming her identity and using her talents. She states in the interview:
It was more about rebelling against what people tell you you can do. I'm a good person, I'm not hurting anybody, I'm trying to make music. What's the big deal? Being told you can't play rock and roll. I'm trying to figure out, what does that mean? You're saying girls can't master the instruments? What you're saying is socially, girls aren't allowed to play rock and roll because it's sexual. Think of the Sticky Fingers cover, or Robert Plant those stances with him with his shirt open and the microphone. Or singles like "Whole Lotta Love." Go back and listen to it and see how dirty that is. I wanted to do that. It wasn't all just about sex, it was just about owning who you were. It was everybody else who started focusing on that.
There's a moment toward the end of the movie when the band is falling apart and you see terror flash in Stewart/Jett's eyes. But then she's back to calculating, to trying to save the situation, to making it work. Throughout the whole movie, there's a strong sense that even though Jett can be caught up in the moment, distracted by drugs, sex or frustration, there's always her guitar, always her drive, always her music. Jett wants to be in control of the situation. That's what you find in her songs and her life story. Ownership. Of her actions, her desires and the songs inspired by them.
I'd love to see Kristen Stewart on screen continuing Jett's story. I want the next chapter, darn it.
And own your own story, starting now.