When Joan Jett took her first guitar lesson at 13 years old, her male teacher told her, "Girls don't play rock and roll." She didn't listen. Because of her no-holds-barred attitude and her defiance against rock's boys' club, that starry-eyed teenager became the badass, leather-clad godmother of punk who has inspired multiple generations of rockers.
After premiering at Sundance earlier this year, the documentary Bad Reputation hits theaters, iTunes, Amazon, and on-demand platforms on September 28. The film, directed by Kevin Kerslake, charts Jett's journey through rock history, including the founding of her band the Runaways during the '70s punk scene, her evolution as a solo artist, her hit-filled '80s run with the Blackhearts, and her 2015 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The doc naggingly skirts around the subject of Jett's sexual orientation, something she's never opted to confirm or deny over years of countless interviews. (The one relationship the film does focus on, her friendship with producer Kenny Laguna, isn't romantic.)
And yet, through interviews with luminaries like Debbie Harry and Pete Townshend, and younger talents like Miley Cyrus and Laura Jane Grace (all paired with rare archival footage), the film's theme is clear: people tried like hell to box in Jett with labels, but she never relented or compromised. In her own words, "Tell me I can't do something -- you know I'm gonna be doing it."