Joan Jett's Video-Game Philosophy

I love this image of Joan Jett playing Gyruss in the 1987 movie Light of Day.

Joan Jett wearing leather playing video games

In Light of Day, Jett plays Patti Rasnick, a rock-n-rolling single mom from Cleveland. Although Patti’s life is a mess, she finds existential—heck, spiritual—relief in coin-op video games.

Video games may or may not be (or someday become) art—I can’t add much to that lengthy conversation—but for Patti in the 1980s, they’re tantamount to a philosophy of life:

PATTI: I’ve been trying to live my life by an idea. You see that machine? [Pointing to Centipede.] That’s an idea. Rock ‘n’ roll—that’s an idea. All those video-game monsters, bip-bip-bip. All those bipbips are separate. No moment is any more important than another. Nothing comes together—no heaven, no hell, just moments…. I go out there every night just to hear the beat: dvv-dvv-dvv-dvv, dvv-dvv-dvv-dvv, dvv-dvv-dvv-dvv. And that’s all there is, man.

Clearly, Patti has never played Super Mario Bros. (The movie was released in 1987, but its heart is in ’83.)

Incredibly, Light of Day has never been released on DVD—not in the USA, anyway. To capture the picture above, I had to track down a VHS copy of the movie—not so easy, even in San Francisco—and shoot a photo of my TV.

There are countless reasons this movie should be on DVD. Here are a few of them:

  • Written & directed by the great Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, American Gigolo, Mishima, etc).
  • The downtrodden/upbeat theme song (“(Just Around the Corner to the) Light of Day”) was written by Bruce Springsteen especially for this movie. The song has since become a classic. I remember Springsteen performing it live on TV—with special feeling, it seemed—in the days immediately following 9/11. It’s fun to watch Michael J. Fox and Michael McKean (Jett’s fictional bandmates) enthusiastically lip sync to the song in the movie’s opening sequence.
  • Great cameo by Del Close, who plays a gravely serious oncologist.
  • Micro-cameo by a pre-NIN Trent Reznor. He appears on screen for a second or two as 1/3 of a new-wave band called “The Problems.”
  • It’s just a good movie. An entertaining drama.

Are you out there, Criterion Collection? Please consider releasing Light of Day on Region 1 DVD/Blu-Ray.

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