What We Started

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
What We Started Movie Poster Image
Glaring lack of women mars otherwise great EDM docu.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 96 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

In their own ways, Carl Cox and Martin Garrix worked hard to pursue their dreams of being successful DJs, and attained that success through dedication and determination. 


Some news footage of rioting in the UK during the 1980s. News footage of the infamous "Disco Demolition Night" in Chicago 1979 -- police and out-of-control teenagers fighting in and around Comiskey Park. 


"F--k" used many times. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Talk of the drug use that took place in the rave scene of the 1990s. Brief shots of drinking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that What We Started is a 2017 documentary about the origins of EDM (electronic dance music) and EDM's impact on popular music today. "F--k" is used several times. It includes some talk of the drug use that defined the rave scene and culture of the 1990s, and some news footage of rioting. The biggest concern and the most glaring omission is the complete lack of women; one is led to believe that women don't play a role in EDM, or in any of the genres that influenced it. Aside from brief blurbs from a female music writer, and Lady Gaga mentioned in passing, it's all men, all the time. Which is a little ironic, considering how much time is spent talking about how "inclusive" EDM shows are, and how a part of the documentary is devoted to opining that the underground music that emerged post-disco came about in the aftermath of an anti-disco backlash rooted solely in racism and homophobia. 

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What's the story?

WHAT WE STARTED documents the past and present of EDM. It traces the genre from the disco of the '70s, to Chicago House and Detroit Techno of the '80s, to the UK rave scene of the '90s, and how all these genres meshed to create the hugely popular electronic dance music scene -- a music and culture that tops the charts and is a multibillion-dollar industry. It follows Martin Garrix, born in 1996 and ranked as the #1 DJ in the world, and Carl Cox, who is working the decks at his club in Ibiza for the last time at age 54 after being part of the scene for decades. Interviews with Moby, David Guetta, and Ed Sheeran also provide perspective and background to EDM's past, present, and future. 

Is it any good?

On the whole, this is an excellent and comprehensive documentary on EDM's past and present. It traces EDM's roots through disco, Chicago House, Detroit Techno, and the hip-hop and rave scenes, showing how these genres led to the massive success of EDM. The contrasts of EDM's underground roots and its recent years of mainstream success are discussed. Testimonial after testimonial from performers, promoters, and music industry insiders talk of what the music means to them, where it has been, and where it's going.

However, for all the talk of how "inclusive" the EDM scene is, the lack of women in What We Started is glaring. Apparently, there were or are no female performers, promoters, producers, or music industry VIPs in any of the musical genres discussed. The only woman who gets any time in the documentary is a female music writer. It's all the more shocking because there's an opinion presented that the dance music that emerged post-disco was largely a backlash response to a perceived racist and homophobic element to disco rather than a response to the oversaturation, commercial overload, and inevitable societal change that happens with any cultural phenomenon. This major omission should be enough to anger aspiring female DJs and fans of the music. It's the one massive void in an otherwise informative documentary. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about music documentaries. How does What We Started compare to other music documentaries you've seen? 

  • How did the movie explore and discuss the different genres that influenced EDM? 

  • How does the documentary use the stories of Martin Garrix and Carl Cox to explore EDM's past, present, and future? 

Movie details

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