Where Are My Friends?
Le Tigre and feminism
The nihilistic party of pop and subpop culture rages on. Someone knocked over the lamp, and it sure is dark in here. The embers of lit cigarettes wink in the black.
One such ember, Le Tigre, wants to make sure you don't forget. About them. About feminism. About gender-fucking. You know, but with, like, beats and shit.
It feels stupid to explain that all of these things can be hilarious, can even make you dance until your "down there" is sweaty. But it's true.
And you'll know it if you grok rock doc Who Took the Bomp? which follows Kathleen Hanna, Johanna Fateman and JD Samson as they tour the world in 2004 for the last time. Hanna fronted Bikini Kill, posterpunk act for the riot grrrl movement in the ’90s. With Le Tigre, she kept the cream of the politics but sprinkled it with dance moves, keyboards, electronic beats and an ’80s colorscape.
It's is not a kinder, gentler, sold-out feminism. Instead, Hanna explains at the beginning of the flick, they wanted to make a gift.
The moves and costumes are kind of awful—really bad/good. But because Le Tigre is awkward and exposed, the audience can shed the norms built into a concert, too, Hanna explains. And that's an important first step if you want to get to the heart of the band's dispatch.
"It feels so ’80s / or early ’90s / to be political / where are my friends?" That's a line from "Get Off the Internet," one of many true things Le Tigre has shouted through a megaphone.
Who Took the Bomp? is all about revealing the super un-rockstar moments of life on the road. Fateman's an over-planner with a pillbox full of vitamins. Samson carries a book on mindfulness.
The feminists pose as fans of Slipknot to get an autograph and a photo with the band—a move Hanna starts to regret as the juvenile trickery unfolds. They also hang out with hypermasculine Hatebreed one evening, and Fateman recounts a story of one of the dudes telling her he wanted to punch a shark.
A clumsy, unprepared radio interviewer drags us through one of the most irritating scenes. The guy avoids Le Tigre's core ideas and asks dumb questions, which makes the band salty. But the thorny moment opens the discussion up to how Le Tigre's catalog and momentum can be ignored. The press can reduce the entire feminist dance party to the fact that Hanna knew Kurt Cobain back in the day. It'd be easy for Le Tigre’s mark to be washed away in the course of a single year, she worries.
Live performance clips fill out the documentary, offering altered versions of Le Tigre's songs. Samson turns in some great moments, and it's revealed that she's become the heartthrob of the group: She's hot to gay and straight men and women alike.
Since the band hasn't toured in years, these live clips are like presents wrapped in homemade paper.
And I guess this is the thank-you card.
Thanks for saying all that stuff. Thanks for making us laugh and dance. Thanks for not letting us forget.
Directed by Kerthy Fix; Starring Johanna Fateman, Kathleen Hanna, JD Samson.
(Oscilloscope, DVD, $19.99)