Anything Boys Can Do… and Mark of the Ninja: DVD

Nov 21, 2013

This DVD is comprised of two documentaries, Anything Boys Can Do… and Mark of the Ninja. Anything… is a music documentary about early- to mid-1990s underground female bands, specifically on the Lower East Side of New York City. Mark of the Ninja is an art documentary about the Antagonist Art Movement (who are also the group that put out this DVD).

Anything… comes in at a little over an hour and is the more interesting of the two docs. It’s obviously dated (‘90s fashion is something I’d like to forget ever happened), but some of the music is quite good. Some of the bands covered include Tribe 8, The Voluptuous Horror Of Karen Black, Sexpod, Thrust, and more. Throughout the doc there are multiple threads occurring in regards to arguments that take place in this scene of bands primarily comprised of women. First, there is an argument about feminism (who is a feminist and why?), but there is also an argument about music vs. performance. Some people think the bands should be good musically, and that a provocative performance, while interesting, doesn’t do much to promote women in music if the music itself isn’t very good. Anything… does a fine job at showing the various positions of women and what their views are on all sorts of female-related issues. There is a lot going on here and while it’s not the most well-shot doc, it does move along at a good pace and really seems to give the women a place to speak their minds about their views on punk, gender, sexuality, and themselves.

The second documentary on the DVD, Mark of the Ninja, is about the Antagonist Art Movement, an artist collective out of New York City. This was made in 2004, so I’m not clear as to how much this describes the current state of the group. However, for a bunch of people who are supposed to be antagonists, I didn’t find the art they were doing as provocative or antagonistic. It seemed like a lot of average art. Granted, it wasn’t still life paintings of bowls of fruit, but it wasn’t anything close to Piss Christ, either. Some guy coloring on the back of dollar bills! Call Secret Service! Putting up stickers of your art movement on street signs! Call the police! Having a bunch of white guys who can’t rap try and do so! Enough already. I can appreciate the interest in bringing together artists—and it’s great to find community amongst fellow human beings who share a belief in something you hold dear—but I don’t see why anything this group does would need to be documented on video, then pressed onto DVD and shared with others.

What this DVD should have been is just Anything Boys Can Do… along with any relevant deleted scenes and follow-ups with the women whose bands originally appeared in the documentary to find out how their views on feminism, punk, gender, sexuality, and music have changed over the years, if at all. Everything else could easily have been left out.  –Kurt Morris (