It is one hundred years since International Women’s Day was first celebrated, and today is International Women’s Day!
In a wonderful article commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of Times Square‘s release, Ben Schulman writes in Venus, “Most impressive about the film though is how the energy of Times Square has been picked up, translated, and parlayed into an amazingly expressive wealth of music and attitude, felt most strongly in the early-90s Riot Grrrl heyday. When Nicky Marotta raspily snarls ‘I’m sticking pins into your brain/I’m manslaughtering you with voodoo,’ on the Sleez’s track ‘Your Daughter is One,’ it’s easy to hear the same aggressive expression in the first line of Bikini Kill’s epic ‘Suck My Left One.’ The single ‘She’s Amazing,’ from another classic Riot Grrrl record from the same time period, Team Dresch’s Personal Best (Chainsaw), perfectly captures that same intensity that is found in Pammy and Nicky’s relationship. Record labels like Chainsaw, fanzines like Rollerderby, and even present-day events like the Renegade Craft Fair all have embodied the Sleez Sisters’ template of working on your own for the merit of having it be done. And it’s that DIY spirit that proves most enduring about the movie.”
In previous posts I have attempted to contextualize Times Square by locating it within relevant cultural contexts. It is just as important, however, to look at the the particular contexts that the film helped to create. It’s heartening to see that the film, and the characters Nicky and Pammy, are being accorded respect as the proto-riot girl icons they surely are. Kathleen Hanna has listed Times Square as one of her favourite movies. Joanna Stephens writes on Queerios!, “Robin Johnson is a revelation as Nicky – she had never acted before, and her butch, strong-at-the-broken-places survivor character comes to real life. . . . her pre-riot girl growl is credible.” Judy Berman writes “Times Square never quite got its due — but it did inspire an entire generation of riot grrrls, who were but riot toddlers when it debuted.”
While riot girl is most closely associated with music, it is a much broader cultural and political feminist movement. In Times Square, the spirit of riot girl is in its costumes, in the Sleez Sisters’ music, in the “lifestyle” Nicky and Pammy create for themselves, and most of all, it is in the attitude of rebellion. This is Nicky and Pammy’s “revolution, girl-style”:
The song in which I most hear Nicky and Pammy is Bikini Kill’s riot girl classic , “Rebel Girl,” which was produced by another proto-riot girl icon, Joan Jett. If Pamela Pearl is the riot girl singing, Nicky Marotta is the rebel girl in whose kiss she “taste[s] the revolution” (and obviously, whose clothes she wants to try on):
“When she talks, I hear the revolution
In her hips, there’s revolution
When she walks, the revolution’s coming
In her kiss, I taste the revolution!
Rebel girl, rebel girl
Rebel girl you are the queen of my world
Rebel girl, rebel girl
I know I wanna take you home
I wanna try on your clothes”
For the record, Pamela Pearl was clearly also a fashion inspiration. Check the irrefutable evidence below:
For “Rebel Girls” (of whatever gender) everywhere, HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!
And for Nicky (Robin Johnson) and Pammy (Trini Alvarado), thank you for the inspiration. You will forever be in my pantheon of feminist icons.