The Sundance Award winning documentary, Miss Representation premiered this week on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network. The film, written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, talks about the way women, and especially women of power are treated by main stream media.Most disturbing is the demeaning portrayals of women in entertainment.
You don’t have to go to far to see the examples: the half-naked, busty ladies and hip-hop videos, the ultra-thin models in fashion magazines or the role of the helpless, but ravishingly beautiful girl in many of the action movies released every summer. These movies, along with most of the movies released in this country aimed at teenage boys and men in their 20’s and early 30’s. Which might explain how short, fat, balding comic characters have girlfriends who look like Cameron Diaz. (But that is another blog post all together. )
The message is loud and clear: You value is in your beauty. What they don’t show you is that these impossibly thin and perfectly beautiful women have been digitally enhanced.
The focus of Miss Representation is not only the way that the media portrays women, but also the way those negative portrayals affect how young girls see themselves. It is no secret that children look for role models in the media. In the shows they watch on TV, the movies they see in theaters and even in their toys.
Like me, you probably had a Barbie doll as a young girl. At that time I didn’t think too much about the message that Barbie was giving me. I just like changing her clothes and brushing her long blond ponytail. She was a fashion model with Malibu beach house. We wanted to be just like her. But how could anyone ever live up to that impossible body type? With legs that long and boobs that large, those tiny little feet and virtually no waistline at all, a real-life Barbie would tip over.
I have written about Chick Flicks for a few years, trying to redefine what makes a good chick flick. Hollywood can make movies that portray real women, strong, smart women. Movies with strong, realistic female characters like Julie and Julie, Just Wright and The Secret Life of Bees are a few and far between. The filmmakers also noted that the classic women movies of the 1930’s and 40’s with actresses like Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis and Katherine Hepburn feature more independent-minded women than most movies today.
Miss Representation made me think seriously about the way the media portrays women and how it affects us. More importantly, how do young girls view themselves in relation to what they see on TV and in movies. These are just a few of the thoughts I took away after watching Miss Representation. I would love to hear what you thought of it.
I encourage you to see Miss Representation. You can find it playing on OWN or check for local screening of the film at theaters near you.