Kathleen Hanna, the subject of this documentary, pretty much embodies pure energy. Whether or not you like her voice or music is beside the point, as is usually the case with punk music. Hanna is unapologetically feminist, never anything less than direct with a willingness to be confrontational. Again, this is what punk rock is all about. So what makes Hanna documentary-worthy? Her music is cathartic and brutally honest. She’s fearlessness and charismatic. She’s the leader of the Riot Grrrrl movement, which has endured and grown over the past twenty-five or so years. Her contributions to a generation of punk rock feminism cannot be denied. Bikini Kill is as great a band as any the hallowed mid-late 70s punk scene(s) produced. Her willingness to push herself musically with other projects such as Julie Ruin and Le Tigre only confirm this.
The Punk Singer is about as good a documentary as you can ask for about a force of nature such as Hanna. It does what documentaries are supposed to do: make you care about the subject. Hanna comes across as a fearless leader of a band and a movement, but she is not afraid to delve into the more difficult aspects of the roles either she chose for herself or were thrust upon her. Revelations about how her struggles with the effects of undiagnosed Lyme disease affected her ability to perform and record new material further bring out Hanna’s vulnerable side. However, she doesn’t want or need your pity. If you’re already a fan of hers at the beginning of The Punk Singer your appreciation for her and her art will grow by the end. If you’re new to Kathleen Hanna, consider this movie a welcome invitation to her world.