Girls can do anything, right? Except that they’re still encouraged to see themselves as helpers, raised, represented, and expected to be wives and mothers rather than independent achievers. This is the primary argument made by Miss Representation. Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary isn’t making a new or a very subtle argument, but it’s one—made emphatically—that makes the film a perfect fit for Oprah’s OWN Documentary Club. Media representations of girls and women as objects are actually increasing. The reasons are various, and include predictable fears and anxieties concerning potential shifts in power and money, and, the film submits, these representations influence how girls and boys think about the world and themselves. As Margaret Cho says plainly, “The media treats women like shit and it’s horrible and I don’t know how we survive it. I don’t know how we rise above it.”
The film organizes its analysis into three general categories, looking at women’s images in popular media—in TV and movie fictions, in journalism, and in politics. These images are certainly related (a point underlined in a clip from On the Record when Greta van Susteren, one of Sarah Palin’s most unabashed fans, asks her whether she’s had breast implants), and their effects are wide-ranging and long-lasting. But the documentary insists that they can be combated, and even makes some suggestions how—mainly by texting and joining campaigns on line the sort of effort most recent advocacy films ask of their viewers.
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