The 2010 movie The Runaways – starring Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie – depicted their hard knock lives and journey from poor nobodies to international stardom. They were primarily hard and punk rock and reached the peak of their fame during a time when the punk movement was quickly growing. They were close friends with other popular rock groups like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, and influenced later artists such as Courtney Love, the Go-Go’s, and White Flag.
Just because they were all girls doesn’t mean they weren’t hardcore. In fact, this was one of the assumptions that the band was constantly working against. They were some of the women in the golden age of rock and proto-punk who took the ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ mantra seriously, much like their male cohorts of the likes of Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, and many others.
The sexual tone and suggestive nature of many of their songs exemplifies their sex appeal at the time, and portrayed them as some of the ‘loose women’ that male rock artists always sang about. But at the same time, it was more revolutionary because it gave women the agency to sing about and take control over their own sexualities, making it okay, and celebrated that women are also sexual beings. Joan Jett was known to be very open about her personal sexuality and experiences, and it’s reflected in her songwriting. With famous songs such as ‘You Drive Me Wild’ that were explicitly pro sexual activity, even though most of the group were still in their teens when it was released on their first album.
Another one of their most famous hits is ‘Cherry Bomb,’ an appropriately angsty tune about teenage rebellion against parents and the conservative older generation’s standards. It also rebelled against gender norms of the time that restricted women and called for them to be ‘ladies,’ most of whom stayed out of trouble and out of the spotlight. This song surprisingly made them a sensation in Japan more than anywhere else, and their sold-out tour there caused a frenzy for their particular brand of glam punk.
In 2015, Joan Jett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by fellow pop singer Milley Cyrus. It was her first real venture into rock’n’roll with the Runaways that drew her songs the incredible attention they deserved and gained her recognition for her talents, and later for launching her band The Blackhearts. It also was the catalyst for her solo career, having founded her very own label, Blackheart Records, immediately after the breakup of The Runaways.