This one was a long time coming.
For those who are new to this blog - HEY-O! This Film Muse post is going to be about a short film that I discovered about a year ago. It's called Dirty Girls by Michael Lucid. See it HERE.
Like most magical things that are regurgitated into this world, I found this bad boy on Tumblr. Circa 1996, the short documentary showcases the lives of an alternative "riot grrrl" group of 8th grade girls. It also documents the local high schoolers' opinions of them.
**WARNING: people were extra mean in the '90s (???)**
I liked this film a lot. A LOT A LOT. I know I always talk about how contrived '90s nostalgia is (and bask in it), but for some reason this film makes me truly reminiscent of something I have actually experienced. I think it has to do with the low-fi analog camera they used to film. It was like I was watching my old home videos - that actually weren't mine. Here's a story for you: during my first film class in high school (2009) I remember my teacher showed us some videos that her former students made. She rolled out this massive TV (which is probably in some landfill now) and popped in a VHS tape. We watched this horrible student film from 1994 which involved someone being kidnapped and thrown in a car trunk. As I watched - something CRAZY happened. What did I see as the criminal escaped down the city streets? MY HOUSE. THEY WERE FILMING IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD. I was probably crying in my crib when they filmed that shot. Everything looked so different yet so familiar. It was weird, seeing my house from someone else's perspective. Tangent? A bit. But with all of that said, it reminds me of something my teacher would have played for us in film class.
I remember these high school girls from the video. They were my 16 year old childhood babysitter, Becca. Becca was like them in so many ways, the clothes, the dark lipstick, the was she talked, even the way she thought. So when I see Becca in my mind - cool older babysitter - and compare them to the Dirty Girls, I immediately feel the opposition and oppression. These girls were the anti-consumerists of the late 90's materialistic culture, and they weren't afraid to show it.
( ^^^ this girl has it figured out ^^^)
You have Amber - head bitch. I really liked Amber. She is someone who I would have wanted to be friends with. The thing about Amber is that although she advocates for women's rights and calls out societies standards - she keeps her cool. Ice cold. She has this air of mystery and composure (even while eating a dirty Life Saver off the ground to fulfill her reputation *high fives via time machine*). Her fellow Dirty Girls on the other hand are a bit haphazard, loud, and relish in the backlash (NOT a bad thing of course, just interesting in comparison) .
("My housekeeper gave me this shirt!")
Like everything in this world, this film isn't so black and white ( >>right vs wrong). Although the Dirty Girls slam down males' expectations of women and why women shouldn't be subjected to them, they also slut shame and continue to separate themselves from the "preppies". To be fair, I remember this mentality too, feeling the "us against the world" vibe permanently pump you up but also bum you out. The last thing you want to do is have to explain yourself to those who make your life hell. That's why this documentary is such an AMAZING piece of history. It shows the true emotions and actions of REAL people, not perfect feminists or accepting high schoolers.
(The Doom Generation, F-YEAH!)
I loved the zines they made. It sort of makes me want to do a secret one on campus and ambush it everywhere like Courtney does to Fern Mayo's "before" picture in Jawbreaker. Well, I guess it wont be a secret if I just told you, but whatever. The most heart wrenching part of this film was watching everyone at the high school make fun of the Dirty Girl's zines, mockingly reading their poetry out loud and huddling around like a pack of hyenas ready to rip it to shreds. The only person that doesn't put it down is a nameless '90s cutie. *swoons*
I went to Michael's Youtube page to see if a full follow up documentary was in the works. I did find a interview with present day Harper (HERE), but nothing of the former. It was cool to see her - like an old friend. This is what she said in part of the interview:
At the end of the school year in '96, the long version of Dirty Girls was shown to the whole school, anyone was invited to view it, and I remember at least one in particular upperclassman that approached us and apologized for what she had said. And that was a BIG DEAL. And a lot of people felt like they understood what we were doing at our core, and so even back then in high school we got some positive reactions from that Dirty Girls video. To have people who'd otherwise would have looked twice at you or would just judge you from a distance be like "that's really cool, I really like what you were saying", I mean that was exactly what we- we couldn't of asked for anything better.
Punk rock. Even shitty people sometimes try to make things right. Also, let's give a shout out to Michael for sharing this gem with us for free on Youtube. You are awesome. With that good vibe I will leave you to your friday night. Have a good one.