The ladies of the Boozy Boob Tube were kind enough to share a few words about what this month’s Graphic Content film, Tank Girl, means to them, almost twenty years after its release. Check it out!
When Tank Girl was first unleashed in 1995 all three of us were just kids. So when we were asked to participate in Graphic Content’s presentation of the film we eagerly jumped on board, not because we even remembered the film especially well, but because of the feelings it left embedded in our burgeoning adolescence way back in the mid ’90s. And those feelings across the board were explicitly those of badass ladyness.
Upon its release, Tank Girl was considered a commercial and critical flop, which is largely how it’s been remembered. But the way a film is seen can change with time. The cultural importance of a film or the readiness of the audience can shift. We suspected that nearly 20 years later, the world might be a little more prepared for the zany, futuristic feminist superhero nearly bursting through the screen in Tank Girl. So we sat down and watched it again, for the first time as adults.
What we discovered was a complex cocktail of elements. Tank Girl opens with a sequence of images taken directly from the comics it’s based on by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin, set to “Girl U Want” by Devo. This sets the mood perfectly. The snippets of comics show us Tank Girl exactly as we should see her – a sassy sparkplug amidst plenty of “booms” and “vrooms.” When the opening credits wrap up, we immediately meet our hero, Rebecca Buck (aka Tank Girl), played by Lori Petty. And just as immediately she gives us a breakdown of her world: sure, she’s living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where water is running out fast and a massive, evil corporation is doing its darndest to take out the good guys, but she’s cracking wise and loving life. At times the film will give you whiplash – between the high-energy soundtrack, the ass-kicking and Tank Girl’s hairstyle/costume changes, you can’t look away for fear of missing something. And the inclusion of more animation between scenes to advance the narrative? Well, that’s just sweet, sweet comic book gravy, and adds a real sense that this movie is more than just the movie itself. It has a history in the comic book world.
What director Rachel Talalay and the cast, specifically Petty, have been most successful in is capturing the spirit of the Tank Girl universe and bringing it to life on screen. Of course, translating a comic book series to film is a tricky business and pleasing everyone is impossible. When fans really, really love a universe one of two things will happen when something new, like a film, is introduced: Their high expectations aren’t met and the result is heartbreak and/or outrage; or they love the world so much they’re happy to indulge in as much of it as possible – so they’re willing to overlook discrepancies. Tank Girl isn’t perfect, but with its wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am energy, it is wonderfully ambitious in delivering its story to its audience. Plus – there are more unmissable marvels than you can shake a stick at, such as count ‘em two dance sequences, Ice-T as a humanoid mutated kangaroo and cameos from the likes of Iggy Pop.
Nostalgia is particularly powerful in the generation who saw Tank Girl and the film captures and embraces that generation whole-heartedly. It also hits the right notes for people who welcome a bit of punk, a bit of camp and hunger for the B-movie aspect of filmmaking. So what we’re saying is that like us, the audience is all grown up and timing couldn’t be better for bringing this film back. Tank Girl is, perhaps, the most ’90s film of ’90s films; it’s easily right up there with Reality Bites and Empire Records in its uber-’90s-ness. The soundtrack is an alternative rock/trip-hop behemoth and is absolutely one of the best soundtracks of the decade, featuring Bjork, Hole, Bush, Portishead and more. We dare say it was a fundamental album that awakened many young minds to a whole new world of music. And the super-cool punk costume design by Arianne Phillips (The Crow, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) is one of the most entertaining, and most ’90s, parts of the film that serves to strengthen Tank Girl’s origins in the very visual comic book medium.
The mid-’90s saw the rise of “girl power,” but that was basically just a slogan for the Spice Girls. Mainstream audiences at the time were clearly not savvy to the genuinely powerful, confident hero found in Rebecca Buck. But after careful consideration, we the ladies of Boozy Boob Tube declare that finally, audiences everywhere have wised-up enough to embrace Tank Girl and the ass-kicking female hero who comes along with it.
Thanks so much to Boozy Boob Tube, and we’ll see you at Graphic Content’s screening of the film, Tuesday, March 18th.