Commentary Track

Tank Girl (1995)

This week on The Spectator Film Podcast…

Tank Girl (1995) 6.13.19
Featuring: Austin, Maxx

Commentary track starts at 35:50

— Notes —

  • “Let’s Stop Calling Movies Feminist” by Anna Biller —- Here’s Anna Biller’s insightful blog post about our tendency to crown movies as “feminist”; we’re not only frequently wrong, but also convolute and trivialize the discussion of actual feminist cinema in doing so, diminishing it’s potency. As with our discussion of Legally Blonde (2001), we relied upon Biller’s criteria to frame a portion of our discussion on Tank Girl and better understand the film. We encourage you curious listeners to engage with Biller’s blog post directly, and listen to our Legally Blonde episode for additional discussion.
    •  It’s also worth mentioning Anna’s Blog: Musings About Film and Culture has many other fascinating posts in which Anna discusses both her own work and film history at large. (Anna also seems to participate in the comments section frequently, which is pretty cool. Just sayin’…)
    • Check out Criterion Channel’s Anna Biller Collection! Her two feature films – Viva (2007), The Love Witch (2016) – are available for streaming in addition to a number of short films she’s made over the past several decades. They won’t be around forever, so watch them while you can.
  • ‘Post-Human Romance: Parody and Pastiche in “Making Mr. Right” and “Tank Girl”‘ by Marilyn Manners and R.L. Rutsky from Discourse — Here’s a link to the article we referenced throughout the episode, and the writers do a fantastic job of articulating how Tank Girl‘s perceived disorganization, lack of stakes, and poor structure actually work as virtues for the film. Locating online academic resources on Tank Girl may be slightly challenging, but this essay is an excellent place to start. We’ll include some relevant quotes below:
    • …Tank Girl is unique not only for having a female lead, but in its comedic, and self-parodic, approach to its subject matter and narrative. This difference is, moreover, very much connected to issues of style, a point foregrounded by the film’s use of drawn, comic-book images – both stills and animated sequences – at numerous points in its narrative. The inclusion of these comic book images, which in themselves contribute to the film’s sense of irreverent and exuberant playfulness, draws attention to the artifice of the filmmaking process and therefore serves to heighten the film’s parodic attitude towards genre conventions and its own narrative. Thus, these images not only tend to privilege style and image over narrative continuity and realism, they also link this emphasis on style to a playful irreverence that refuses to take the male-dominated conventions of science-fiction – and cinematic narratives more generally – seriously” (123-24)

    • Tank Girl’s foregrounding of style and surface is, indeed, inseparable from its parody of authority and seriousness. At a narrative level, the film seems to borrow familiar plot devices from mainstream science-fiction films only in order to make fun of them…For Kesslee, this competition is about control. Just as he tries to control the world’s water, he also wants not to kill, but to control Rebecca, to force her to work for him…Yet, if the film thematizes the linkage of the female body to fluidity and of the man to the control of that fluidity (as we shall discuss further), it also formalizes these connections in its narrative, where the continuous, liner (male) narrative is constantly subverted, or diverted, by the currents of an irrepressible (female) style” (124-25)

    • “The aesthetic style of Tank Girl, in other words, is not radical chic, but ‘radical pastiche'” (127).

  • ‘Mapping the Music and Style of ‘Tank Girl” by Elizabeth Sankey from Vice — Here’s a neat article from Vice that touches on Tank Girl‘s relationship to various cultural objects and artists.
  • ‘Lori Petty reflects on Tank Girl, Jennifer Lawrence, and that Game of Thrones coffee cup’ by Jerilyn Jordan from Detroit MetroTimes — Here’s a 2019 interview with Lori Petty where she offers lots of insightful thoughts reflecting on Tank Girl. 
  • ‘The Director of “Tank Girl” is Now Behind-the-Scenes on the New “Doctor Who”‘ by Sarah Mirk from Bitchmedia — Here’s a terrific interview with Tank Girl‘s director, Rachel Talalay. She offers a lot of insight into her work directing today and her career path, as well as lots of thoughts on her experience with Tank Girl, specifically.
  • ‘Tank Girl, Postfeminist Media Manifesto’ by Elyce Helford from Electronic Book Review — Here’s a very interesting article discussing Tank Girl from a perspective we didn’t address during our episode, specifically looking at Tank Girl as an alluring and hopeful, but ultimately misguided, post-feminist fantasy character that fails to address social reality. I haven’t found much else about Tank Girl discussing it in this manner, and it’s very thought-provoking. Give it a read!
  • ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ by Laura Mulvey — The renowned and indispensable essay that helped pioneer the concept of a gendered gaze in film. We didn’t frame our discussion in reference to this essay specifically, but there’s plenty to be gained by watching Tank Girl with this essay in mind.

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