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We Chatted with the Dirty Girls, 17 Years Later

Earlier this week, a video called “Dirty Girls” went viral on YouTube—and not for the reasons you’d expect, given the title. The documentary video, originally shot in 1996 by filmmaker (and then high school senior) Michael Lucid, was released in 2000 and chronicles a group of outcasts, refered to by their tormentors as the “Dirty Girls,” who pride themselves on riot grrrl ethos, being different, and just not giving a fuck. The video focuses on the two leaders of the Dirty Girls, sisters Amber and Harper, who speak clearly and eloquently (as eloquently as an eighth grader can be expected to) about their convictions, while girls in sunglasses and jean jackets talk smack about them behind their backs. Not only is the documentary a perfect time capsule for people who went to high school in the 90s, it also perfectly captures two strong, independent young people speaking their minds and doing their own thing. 

When I first watched “Dirty Girls,” I loved it. I sent it around to everyone in the VICE offices, and they loved it, too. We all decided that we really needed to track down the original Dirty Girls and see what they were up to today. It turned to be not that difficult a task. Harper lives in New York City and was gracious enough to visit our offices, where I chatted with her and her sister, Amber, who joined us via Skype.

VICE: When is the first time that you guys saw the video?
Harper: Pretty much right after it was made when we were still in high school. Around 2000, he did a screening of it at a gay and lesbian film festival in LA. He had taken it down from an hour to 20 minutes, so that was the first time we saw this short, really well-put-together documentary. We haven’t seen it since then… so 12,13 years or so.

How did you find out that it was taking off online like it has?
Harper: A close friend of mine had it forwarded from somebody from high school. Someone forwarded it me and said, “I’m blown away. Oh my god, I love you girls. You’re such strong little ones. So confident. I’m so impressed.” And at that point, there were 2000 views. That was the first day. And then it just went from there, and more and more people contacted us.

Amber: I only really just watched it again fully yesterday. I felt like I remembered it really well 13 years ago. I had a certain amount of emotions about it at that time and was sure that I would feel the same now. But when I watched it yesterday, it was totally different. It’s amazing to me, because I think it’s a reflection on us and where we’re from. I’m the same person who watched it 12 years ago, and I’m also so different in how I’ve developed and what I think now. It was a completely different perspective. It was the miracle of life. I love it. It’s fascinating.

How do you feel when you watch the video now? Are you proud? Embarrassed?
Harper: I’m excited about it. I think it’s great. I remember in the moment feeling like we were given a voice that we didn’t have without that video being shown to the rest of the school. So I felt proud of the commentary then, and I do now too. I’m also just so blown away by the positive reactions from everybody. Just looking at the YouTube comments where everyone is so inspired, impressed by us. That just makes me feel so happy. I think back then we were dedicated to giving people voices that maybe didn’t have them. And I think both of us would agree that neither of us have any hard feelings toward any of those people, the older students making comments about it.

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Girl News - Girls and Being a Teenager

Who else knows every single thing about music and books and movies but also knows how to use hash oil but also houses a private, expanding and infinite constellation of feels and thinks? Nobody! Weirdly, teenage girls have it the hardest: nobody likes them, because stop shotgunning one another with loud inconsequentials on the subway, OK? And because they are messy and self-serious and uncontained and are always, like, stroking their filthy accessories and iPhone charms in this grossitating way. I’m a professional girl, and when I am with two or more teenage babies I feel like they’re going to combust and just period and period and period all over me. But, but but but, they’re all anybody thinks about, looks at, looks at with their dinky in their hand, wants to be, has shit to say about. Teenage girls are as full of secrets as Gretchen Wieners’ hair but exist at the center of contemporary society, which is fucked, right?

Also, for every post-teenager girl, her teenager-self is a lodestar. The interim between adolescence and a 21st birthday, or whatever, is characterized by absorption and experience and wrongthink and total psychic, psychotic distress, true, but every year after that is just editing. Actually, yeah: Adulthood is just making a Pinterest out of what you liked when you were 15, basically. Shit, guy.

A DAILY SCHEDULE

If you are a teenage human girl, hi. I love you. The squeezes I want to give you, girl… I’d crack your bones like Nicki eats your brain, dig? Anyway, it’s Friday, and what you need to be doing is downloading Do The Right Thing, which is not specifically a Teenager Movie but that is as or more crucial an experience as any rando Selena Gomez vehicle, and then text your friends to come over way later. Then I want you to get the fuck on your bike or skateboard and side-wind somewhere to commune with your girls and just, like, rub your sweat on each other and seal joints for each other with your tongue-tips and probably go swimming naked with boys because you want to look at them but only go with boys who pretend not to look, or look with the dignity and respect of a blind elder statesman, and then way later after you’ve watched Do The Right Thing and had multiple, mental les petite morts about ice (trusssssst me) go out to the yard and sink in, watching stars or satellites or just your phone’s screen, fading in and out in the dark until morning, when you go eat some pancakes to come down a little softer. There’s other stuff, about watermelons and cooking syringes and vodka, but learning how to be bad is even funner than being it, dangerous angel. Anges dangereuses! Ooooh, that’s even better.

CHARACTER

Usually my, like, advice-manifesto is to emulate the behavioral patterns of rich old white men. Like this:“When you get old and confident it’s so great because you do whatever the shit you want, like rich old white men. Seriously? Let rich old white men be your Spirit Animals when it comes to pursuing only and all of what amuses you.” Maybe that’s too triple-black-diamond for the moment? Look, I like every new year that I am because “more” is a better birthday present than a telescope and water skis (that is a reference to the 1980s, but I’m not sure why?), AND if you’re a certain/the right kind of person your eventual oldening will mostly be an opportunity for better material items and (the price you pay is sometimes sobbing in parking lots, and you have to try harder at having friends, but otherwise it’s cool), rendering teenager-ness a period only distinct because of how you remember exactly where and how that dude rubbed your pussy-area outside of your jeans because something about how your hormones operate makes any and all sexual encounters imprint on your memory, forever and ever and ever, with total recall whenever you close your porcelain doll-eyes. Anyway, that feeling of tilting your face out the window of a car on a 6 AM hot-white highway isn’t about “16,” it’s about “choices.”

BODIES

It’s not how skinny you are that makes grownup women want to be you (after all, the skinniest skinnies are born-again Orange County fortysomething moms of ten who have actually but secretly accepted Lululemon as their lord and savior); it’s how much you don’t know what you look like.

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[...*sigh* this is only the teaser now... the day after embedding the original video (that was on the net from already 2 months), they changed it as "private" and I had to switch to a "teaser". So... i changed to "private" the link to Planktoon].
The Paris-based Planktoon studio and Yoshimichi Tamura (animation director in Zarafa, and animator in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Shark Tale) have collaborated (in a script by Josey Essoh) to create a tale of human vanity and inside war.

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