The Culture Show: Girls Will Be Girl, BBC2 -TV review: 'Never mind the blokes – this guide to the women of punk was required viewing'


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The Independent Culture

The Culture Show: Girls Will Be Girls (BBC2), a documentary about women in punk, should be required viewing for all little girls at nursery school. True, the swearing might be a bit much for four-year-olds, and the feminist theorising of presenter Miranda Sawyer would probably go over their heads, but they'd surely relate to the Slits' lead singer Ari Up's admirable lack of self-consciousness. "She was very relaxed about her body," according to guitarist Viv Albertine. "She pissed on stage – not to be shocking, but because she basically, desperately needed a piss."

Television is fond of shows in which Very Important Old Blokes (Danny Baker, Jools Holland etc) discuss the music of their teens with retrospective reverence. Earlier this year, Albertine was a lone female voice on one such show, Danny Baker's Rockin' Decades. Now she has a book out detailing her own memories of the punk era, the excellently titled Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys. This must mean it's the turn of Very Important Old Birds to get misty-eyed about their first LPs and ticket stubs – and about time too.

Sawyer led us from the Slits' first gig in 1977 to the end of this first wave, taking in artistic expression, equality and attitudes to sex (mainly "no, thanks", apparently). Interviewees included a forthright Chrissie Hynde, an admiring Don Letts and Jordan, the in-store model for Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood's Sex boutique, still looking fabulous with pink hair and indoor shades.

It was a photograph of Jordan, taken by scene photographer Sheila Rock, which seemed most perfectly to sum up a changing Britain. Jordan is posing on the King's Road, beneath the SEX sign in a black-belted leotard and asymmetric eye make-up, while in the right of the frame a bell-bottomed representative of the outgoing social order looks on, his stance blending disapproval and desire in equal measure. Jordan barely registers his presence.

Punk's insouciance, as well as her fishnet tights, have since been borrowed by pop artists with more blandly commercial agendas. "Can the female punk spirit still survive?" asked Sawyer at the outset while Miley Cyrus and Rihanna writhed in their respective videos. The promised take-down of the current crop never really came, however, and instead the film's conclusion went for the sisterly option: a plug for Albertine-approved London punk trio, Skinny Girl Diet.