“Hit So Hard” is a compelling tale about Patty Schemel’s life and near death experience with substance abuse. Patty, the original drummer for the band Hole, gives us a personal recounting of her time in the spotlight, as well as what it was like for her coming out as a gay rockstar. The camera follows Patty and her band from modest beginnings to international fame. In the male-dominated, sexist music industry with the rock gods of the 1990s, Hole climbs the charts with a huge following of mostly young women, gay men and other queer folks.
Hole’s rise to stardom leads them onto a path of the rock and roll lifestyle of so many of their generation. Fueled by addictions to drugs and booze, the members of the band lose themselves to many a lurid exchange yet try not to lose sight of the common goal, their music. Patty shares her experiences of being part of the legacy that Hole carved in music herstory. The documentary contains a montage of interviews and never-before-seen footage with lead singer Courtney Love, other members of the band, and other famous musicians of the time. In one conversation, Courtney explains the reasoning behind calling her band Hole. She refers to the phallic nature and imagery of the band Nine Inch Nails and exclaims how as a woman, she has a right to be cheeky and empowered enough to name her band “Hole.”
Patty expresses many frustrations around not being taken seriously as a musician. She experiences a lot of flak for being a woman and a drummer because those two identities apparently can’t co-exist. Patty’s talent as a drummer is constantly questioned due to gender stereotypes that depict women as delicate flowers, unable to keep up the strenuous duty of a drummer. Patty uses that same line of reasoning to challenge that idea, stating that some women have the stamina to give birth!
The documentary tells us about a music producer who makes Patty play her drum kit all day for weeks, testing her patience and trying to break her down so he can have a male drummer perform for the “America’s Sweetheart” record, and other gruelling sessions where she told she isn’t good enough. With increasing disconnection among the members of the band, Patty snaps. This event triggers a bender of substance abuse that sends her spiralling onto the streets, new reality that forces Patty to see life anew.
This documentary is an intense journey into a time in music history filled with political turmoil, uprisings, disillusioned youth and the rise of the grunge movement. Patty talks about how few women drummers there are in the music halls of fame and mentions that she can count them with one hand. She wishes that more women would pick up instruments and express themselves musically. Her talent and skills as a drummer are praised by Courtney Love and other musicians such as Nina from Veruca Salt and Debbi Peterson from The Bangles.
Patty’s struggle to find acclaim for her craft in a patriarchal society and on a journey of recovery and healing is inspiring to say the least. Her remarkable resilience and strength as she bounces back from her addiction, finds her life partner and eventual career is heartwarming. This documentary is a rare treat for fans and music lovers alike, and after writing this, all I want to do is listen to Hole’s album Live Through This!