Four days before her death, Janis Joplin spoke with Howard Smith of the Village Voice in what was to be her last interview.
Their conversation has been resurrected as a four minute animation for PBS Digital Studios’ Blank on Blank series.
The cartoon Janis bears a close resemblance to Gloria Steinem, an uncomfortable fit once the topic turns from her sadness at critical rejection to the sisterhood’s alleged withholding of affection.
Smith hits his subject with some leading questions that smack of the myriad ways Women’s Lib was distorted by even the liberal media of the time: “It seems to bother a lot of Women’s Lib people that you’re so upfront sexually,” he muses.
No need to take that one at anything less than face value …
Joplin allowed herself to be led, tossing off several statements that animator Patrick Smith faithfully illustrates (in my opinion the wounded female drummers rock far more than pregnancy and vacuums, his shorthand for “settling”).
When later, Joplin timidly asks if “all that $#*% I said about chicks” sounded bad, Smith reassures her that no, she said what she wanted to say. Perhaps he got what he wanted her to say.
As commenter heyitsmoi observed on YouTube, “It’s always bothered me when people ask successful women to comment on how some other women don’t like them. I’ve yet to hear a successful man to be asked why other men don’t like him, even though there’s sure to be plenty. Women seem to constantly be put in this defensive position where they can’t answer the question without making it sound like all women are jealous beasts who can’t handle that some woman made it, and that’s simply not true.”
If you’re left feeling vaguely queasy, I suggest “Stiletto Power,” Blank on Blank’s take on Larry Grobel’s 1994 interview with Farrah Fawcett.
Grobel’s approach seemed to have been one of turn on the tape recorder and then get out of the way. Mission accomplished. The resulting monologue is as ferocious as it is funny.
Ayun Halliday has fond feelings for both of the women featured in the above article . Follow her @AyunHalliday.