Women, guitars and the big screen

While Emily Haines was still enjoying Raffi, Joan Jett had already zipped up her red leather suit, chopped her shag hair and tossed beer bottles back at pissed crowds.

While Emily Haines was still enjoying Raffi, Joan Jett had already zipped up her red leather suit, chopped her shag hair and tossed beer bottles back at pissed crowds. Jett's early rock antics are captured like a lipstick sneer by Floria Sigismondi in The Runaways, opening this weekend. In a recent Sundance Film Festival interview, Jett says, “Initially people would laugh at us and go, ut then when they realized we were serious, they get nasty. In particular, prog-rocking Rush, who inspired an amazing retaliation scene in The Runaways, were offenders: “They sat on the side of the stage and laughed at us. That sort of stuff pisses me off," says Jett.

Obviously it's not a big deal to be a female musician anymore, and Geddy Lee's sensitivity training has probably kicked in. But when it comes to ladies and their guitars on film, Hollywood has an even shittier record---unless you're a groupie, a slut or a drug addict. Here are some of the high and low notes.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

Directed by Russ Meyer and co-written by Meyer and Roger Ebert, this old-school cult classic follows the usual plot: young all-girl band meets Svengali manager, makes it big, gets fucked up. Really fucked up, Meyer's style. Best watched while inhaling.

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn as an abused child bride turned country superstar equals music-film heaven and a role model worth worshipping.

Foxes (1980)

Technically not a band movie, but Foxes stars ex-Runaway Cherie Curry---who is now a Valley chainsaw artist---as Annie, a Hollywood wild girl, slumming it along with Jodie Foster, Scott Baio, Sally Kellerman and Randy Quaid. It's like Kids for the Quaalude generation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1981)

Long rumoured to be the inspiration for The White Stripes and a favourite of Courtney Love, if you're going to watch one music film, make it this one. Teenager Corinne Burns (Diane Lane) and her band The Fabulous Stains go on tour with The Looters (Sex Pistols' Steve Jones and Paul Cook, Paul Simonon of The Clash and Ray Winstone of Quadrophenia). Burns changes her name to Third Degree, cuts her hair into a skunk-like mohawk, dresses in see-through tops and starts a political movement, inspiring a generation of cultish riot grrl screenings.

Light of Day (1982)

More proof that everyone in the 1980s was high from hairspray fumes, Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox play a Cleveland brother-sister band called The Barbusters. Jett's a single mom, who, of course, is irresponsible, leaving her young son behind to lead a "rock 'n' roll" life. Springsteen wrote the theme song and, later, director Paul Schrader slagged Jett for her performance. Bonus: spotting a young Trent Reznor.

Satisfaction (1988)

Michael J. Fox's Family Ties sister Justine Bateman wasn't happy to let big bro have all the musical attention. Bateman stars as Jennie Lee, head of the all-girl band (plus a slightly effeminate male keyboard player) The Mystery. Thanks to Aaron Spelling, this is an excellent lesson in girl band stereotypes---we have the druggie, the slut, the thief and the love-struck. And Julia Roberts. Like a pathetic Bangles or Go-Go's, but without a hit. Bonus: one of the cheesiest opening credits of the decade.

Grace of My Heart (1996)

Allison Anders' film is a barely fictionalized biopic of the New York Brill Building scene of the 1950s to '70s. Illeana Douglas stars as a Carole King character, Edna Buxton, who gives up family fortune to pursue a music career on her own terms.

Spice World/Josie and the Pussycats

A perfect Saturday afternoon hangover: lots of empty caloric girl power.

Almost Famous (2000)

Kate Hudson made being a groupie look all pretty and flowery, like a doe-eyed tiny dancer. Except for the parts where she was totally ignored and took too many drugs. Watch the documentary Plaster Caster instead, at least Cynthia Plaster Caster was real, and you get a sense of what dicks musicians can be.

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