Bad Attitude: The Art of Spain Rodriguez is a 2021 documentary film made by the Emmy-nominated filmmaker Susan Stern. Bad Attitude explores the art of the late underground comic artist Spain Rodriguez and gives considerable runtime to sharing the huge personality behind the art.
Storytelling. Spain Rodriguez’s story is mostly told by his friends and family, bringing a sense of intimacy to the film. As suggested by the title, Spain Rodriguez was something of a bad boy, both in the art world and in his personal life. Told chronologically, Bad Attitude tells his story and brings context to his art and the life he lived. Throughout the film, audiences are allowed to stop and read Rodriguez’s comics and look at the art. The documentary even animates parts of his art to make it a bit more cinematic. This allows viewers to fully understand the comics being discussed.
Context. This film is better enjoyed with context. The documentary assumes the viewer already knows about Rodriguez and his art. If someone walks into this film blindly, they will likely spend the runtime aware they are missing some things. This film serves as a celebration of his life, but not as an introduction to it.
Social activism. In the current times of social turbulence, it is so interesting to see how a previous generation's activism intersects with art at the time. Bad Attitude brings this underground comic artist's work from the 60s, 70s, and 80s into a modern setting. The documentary takes the time to speak with the feminist artists and writers with whom Spain Rodriguez had relationships with, as well as younger ones who only know his art. It provides further context for his work and the feminist movement of the time. It also allows the viewers a more intimate look into who Rodriguez was. Rodriguez’s anti-racism work is spoken about in the film as well. Bad Attitude paints a portrait of a man with strong principles and ideas that informed his life path.
Bias. This film exclusively interviews people who loved and/ or knew Spain Rodriguez personally. As a result, the entire documentary speaks to how wonderful he is. It’s sweet to see, but the film hints at areas and times when people would have disagreed with and disliked Spain. It would have been great to hear from people who disagree with Spain Rodriguez’s work. His work seems to have not been popular with all feminists. In contrast to this, the feminists who speak during the documentary all agree with Spain Rodriguez and seem to have taken no real issue with him or his work. To have gained a better perspective through a feminist of the time who publicly disagreed with Rodriguez would have brought a more level-headed approach. The film, as is, is overzealous in its positive portrayal. There is a clear reason for this. Susan Stern, the director, is not unbiased. She was married to Spain Rodriguez and her love and respect for him is clear. The entire film is both a love letter and an exercise in self-reflection for Stern. The documentary still holds up as an immersive dive into his life; even if you don’t believe any one man could be that cool.