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‘Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez’ review: Conflicting views of underground artist drive documentary

Separating art and the artist.

Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez is a documentary currently screening at the virtual Slamdance Film Festival that highlights the contradictions between the artist and their art. Shot over several years by his wife Susan Stern, the film chronicles the life and career of the underground cartoonist. It is a personal and political look at art and activism.

Early on, the documentary displays how problematic Rodriguez’s work can be. Bad Attitude shows a comic from the 1950s depicting a gay man being beaten by a gang. As Andi Zeisler co-founder of Bitch Media points out, if the comic were released today, it would be seen as trying to be outrageous or hate speech. His early works are filled with homophobic and misogynistic moments.

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The same man would also try to reform Nazi sympathizers and was an anti war protester and an advocate for civil rights. Bad Attitude is filled with these two opposing sides of Rodriguez that drove him. His often conflicting views poured into the pages of the underground comics he wrote for. Interviews with R. Crumb, Art Spigelman, and Ed Piskor show how respected and admired his work is. To underscore the point, Bad Attitude shows much of Rodriguez’s work.

Ultimately, Rodriguez’s polarizing views on life are what drove the film. Bad Attitude is a standard documentary that moves in a straight line. It is interesting, but formulaic. However, the artist who did not “get feminism” but also drew powerful women is an interesting subject. Stern – who edited a feminist magazine – comments whether she made the film to defend Spain or herself. These sorts of questions make the documentary compelling.

The Slamdance Film Festival takes place from February 12-25. Virtual tickets can be purchased at the official site.

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