Last July we posted photos from an unnamed film set where Dakota Fanning stood, ready for camera, with blood running down her thighs and a blood stain on the back of her skirt. Were these menstrual markings or the next era of horror film misogyny? The answer can be seen in the newly released film The Runaways, a drama about a 1970’s all girl rock band fronted by Cherie Currie (played by Dakota Fanning) and guitarist, Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart.)
Here, menstruation is a framing element, as the film begins with a screen sized image of a red blood drop falling to the pavement. Cut to Fanning wiping blood from her thigh in disbelief. Her sister, Marie rushes her to the bathroom to attend to their first period, for Marie whines “Everything happens to you first!” Cherie packs her undies with paper towels, ties a sweatshirt around the stain, and in stunned disbelief of what has just transpired, tags behind her sister and her sister’s creepy dude date. He leers at her, “You’re a woman now.”
Later that evening, Cherie crops her hair, paints a David Bowie red streak across her face, and begins to come into herself. Becoming a woman in this film, does not include being soft and desirable for boys. Rather, menarche signifies entrance into glam rock iconography.
As Cherie meets up with Joan, and the two launch The Runaways, Cherie’s early entrance into womanhood seems to have come too soon. Still a child, Cherie is pushed into the front of a stage and asked to groan into a mic about her bursting sexuality in the song Cherry Bomb. The demanding manager, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), yells at her to give more to the song “This isn’t woman’s lib. It’s woman’s lib-ido.”
In the coming weeks on tour, Cherie will partake in her first kiss, first sip, first line, first pill – revealing how womanhood has not “dropped” upon her. It arrives in waves through her choices, or her inability to make them. And there is still more growing to do.