Canadian singer-songwriter Alanis Morissette is pretty much regarded as the voice of the angsty 1990s.
Her 1995 record Jagged Little Pill sold millions of copies worldwide and was the soundtrack for emo teenagers everywhere. Her later career veered towards more soft rock-oriented artistry, but she continues to make a name for herself as a renowned artist, songwriter, and actress. Now, the queen of alt-rock has been the subject of a new HBO documentary titled Jagged, alluding to her successful album. Most artists would be gratified by the opportunity, but Morissette used it to disclose shocking revelations about her early career – and later denounced the entire project and its objective.
The Inside Look into Morissette’s Career
Jagged belongs to a new anthology series out of HBO chronicling “pivotal moments in the rock music world,” along with America’s most iconic music artists and their careers. The first production, Woodstock ‘99: Peace, Love, and Rage, was released on HBO’s streaming service to mixed reviews from critics. Jagged is the second installment from the collection and promised to give viewers and fans an inside look into Morissette’s early career, following her rise to fame and the release of her most well-known album.
In actuality, Jagged Little Pill was Morissette’s third album, but it was a marked departure from her previous work which was perceived as more dance pop in nature. Jagged Little Pill for many exemplifies the grunge and alt-rock genre that would later swarm the ‘90s and end up characterizing the decade as a whole. The album features more rock elements both in style and tone, and the content of the songs voices Morissette’s aggressive perspective on female sexuality, failed relationships, and her emotional struggle with her perception of herself versus the public’s.
Jagged Little Pill won five Grammy awards.
The album ended up winning five Grammy awards, one of them being Album of the Year. At 21, Morissette was the youngest Grammy winner at the time, and one of the first Canadians to have a best-selling record. The album contains 13 tracks, with the most well-known hit being the rock empowerment anthem “You Oughta Know.”
Morissette’s Rape Allegations
While the producers of the documentary likely intended Jagged to be a relatively straightforward documentary, Morissette ended up throwing a few curve balls neither they nor the audience at the Toronto International Film Festival were expecting.
In a sit-down segment within the documentary, Morissette reveals she was raped by multiple people at the age of 15 while she was working in the music industry. She doesn’t name any of the perpetrators or detail specific instances and places, but only alludes to the fact that at 15, many in the industry jumped at the chance to take advantage of her and her naivete.
Morissette claims she was raped by multiple music industry people when she was 15.
In Canada during this specific period she’s referencing, the age of consent was 14. But Morissette heavily implies that the people responsible for victimizing her were probably older, more successful men in the industry. She says, “Something about me being 15 – that’s when I really started to be hit on. Twelve, they were a little scared. Thirteen they were a little scared, but they’d still, you know. Fourteen less scary, but still scary. Fifteen, all bets were off. Somehow that seemed like a safer number for people.”
Morissette goes on to reveal that it took years of going to therapy for her to even admit she was a victim at such a young and vulnerable age. She goes on to explain that even though she thought she was consenting at the time, she now realizes she was unable to at that age.
She says, “There was a lot of shame around having any victimization of any kind. And it took me years in therapy for me to admit that there had been any kind of victimization on my part. I would always say, ‘I was consenting,’ and then I’d be reminded ‘Hey, you were 15. You’re not consenting at 15.’ Now I’m, like, they’re all pedophiles. All statutory rape."
She also explains that she never disclosed what was happening to her at the time for fear that it would cause repercussions for her family and for her safety.
Why Morissette Slammed Her Own Documentary
With the backing of Morissette’s own support, at one time it probably looked like the documentary would be a huge success, much like the album it focuses on.
But since its release, Morissette has publicly shamed the angle and direction the project chose to take, basically concluding that she in no way stands by the production, nor does she want anything to do with it.
The first hints of potential conflict stirred when it was revealed Morissette would be notably absent from the documentary’s premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Later that same day, she released a statement disowning the entire project, saying Alison Klayman, the director, had taken advantage of her postpartum and quarantine-induced depression.
Morissette disowned the documentary, saying, “This was not the story I agreed to tell.”
“This was not the story I agreed to tell,” her statement reads. “I sit here now experiencing the full impact of having trusted someone who did not warrant being trusted. I have chosen not to attend any event around this movie for two reasons: one is that I am on tour right now. The other is that, not unlike many ‘stories’ and unauthorized biographies out there over the years, this one includes implications and facts that are simply not true. While there is beauty and some elements of accuracy in this/my story to be sure – I ultimately won’t be supporting someone else’s reductive take on a story much too nuanced for them to ever grasp or tell.”
Now, many fans and critics are speculating about what it is within the documentary that could have instilled such disdain from the artist. Possibly, it’s that former members of her band openly admitted to using the singer’s fame to entice fans into specifically designated rooms at concerts for casual sex. Or it’s the way that her allegations of statutory rape were portrayed by Klayman. In reality, only Morissette knows why she can no longer stand by the project.
In a culture fraught with parasocial relationships between celebrities and their fans, it’s only natural to think that we actually know that person because of what they disclose publicly or post online. But we never really know someone in the public eye as well as we think we do.
If anything, the controversy around the project and Morissette’s early career inspires sadness, not admiration. It’s evident that a talented young woman was taken advantage of, by powerful people, by her industry, and perhaps decades later by a tribute project meant to praise her talent.
In reality, Morissette probably had no say about how her life would really be portrayed in this project. For whatever reason that only she knows, it looks as though many are still continuing to exploit her story.
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