Johnny Loftus

It’s all VH-1’s fault.

The next addition of the network’s ailing “Divas” series – which will likely feature Leslie Carter, Mandy Moore, and the Olsen Twins – will prove exactly what “Divas” does not promote: Women who play guitar will always kick more ass than those who simply sing and look pretty. They should have quit while they were ahead. After the extravaganza’s first incarnation featured actual, professional divas like Aretha, Diana, and Janet, VH-1 had to somewhat broaden the definition of “diva.” Left with C-list young’uns who weren’t around to see Madonna marry Sean Penn, their production probably didn’t inspire any female watching to do anything but switch to an old re-run of Moeesha. The absurd staying power of the Britney brand aside, it’s obvious that the divas are dying. Examples? The recent Josie and the Pussycats redux did not feature a D*Child-style girl group. Instead, a leather-clad Rachel Leigh Cook strummed chords on a black Les Paul. Pacific Northwest stalwarts Sleater-Kinney have finally begun to tear into the national media, achieving for the Riot Grrl movement what it could never muster in its mid-90s heyday: true respect of women who rock. So now that chicks with guitars are back, it’s only fair that The Runaways have their say. Their girl-on-girl rock groove pre-dated the post New-Wave spate of girl bands like the Go-Gos and The Bangles by half a decade. And Vicki Blue is out to prove it.

Edgeplay: A Film About the Runaways is an upcoming documentary that has been put together by Blue, the band’s former bassist. It mixes interviews, performances, and tour film together to tell the story of the girls who rocked back when, most notably young, nails-for-breakfast versions of Lita Ford and Joan Jett.

The Runaways weren’t the greatest band of all time. Their tunes suffered from crappy production, and sometimes just weren’t that good. But the attitude was always present, even when their public image was being molded and tortured by Kim Fowley, the svengali who was the Maurice Starr of the 1970s. It was his idea to have the girls perform in lingerie; but it was still Joan Jett who wrote “I Love Rock and Roll,” even if she did have to play it in her underpants. Conversely, when Britney tears her clothes off on M-TV, all she has is her tits and some backup dancers. She can’t smash her guitar, or strike a mean pose behind a big Fender bass. The Runaways may have been a packaged thrill just like Britney and her peeps, but Ms Spears’ll never stick a Marlboro in the neck of her Gibson.

The timing of Edgeplay is perfect. Lita Ford’s been on TV warning of Metal’s return for years, and it turns out she was right. Boy bands and divas can’t rule the stage forever. The triumphant return of the Go-Gos (with new material and not simply another greatest hits package) is in line with the current spate of 80s nostalgia, but their popularity also proves that distortion is finally back. Even Her Diva-Ness Madonna is playing her guitar on the current Drowned World tour. And into this mix comes Edgeplay to show little girls everywhere how fun it is being an 18 year-old girl with long bangs, leather pants, and a scowl that cuts glass.

And the best thing about the documentary? Angelina Jolie is nowhere near it.


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