by Lori Lewis
If you’ve been paying attention since our January 2012 launch of See Magazine, you won’t be surprised by this positive review of the film I credit for instilling in me the mission to start and run See. That’s a given.
In watching the film with a more critical and objective eye in preparation for writing this review, its strengths became even more apparent to me, and the depth and breadth of injustice that it takes on seems to become more expansive the more times I watch it.
Beginning with some alarming stats around just how much media our female youth consumes and now a seemingly singular message of worth = appearance, value = what you have to offer to men, the film then lays out the background (and future, as she’s expecting a daughter at the time) of the film’s director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. Learning about Newsom illuminates her motivations for exploring these issues and asserts that even a thin, beautiful blonde with a privileged upbringing isn’t immune to destructive media messages – and the myriad limitations they place upon women in American society.
The film then goes on to explore – through copious imagery, commentary from a multitude of notable females from entertainment, politics, women’s rights activism, media literacy and more and a narrative that’s packed with truly disturbing statistics – the profoundly negative effects of the one dimensional, negative portrayal of women by media. By marketing an idealized and impossible to achieve standard of beauty which essentially distracts women from claiming their rightful place in power structures of politics, business and media, the media robs us of our efficacy in all of those areas and more – including our own emotional and physical health.
All of these are bad enough on their own in terms of impact to individuals. However, as the film illustrates, there is a collective price to pay: depression among girls and women has more than doubled over the past ten years. And the negative effects are not limited to just women – they damage the United States as a country, as well. Despite being a world leader in many areas, the United States ranks 90th in the world in terms of representation of women in government. Iraq, Cuba, Afghanistan and China have more women in government than does the U.S. In my mind, that is the single most alarming thing this film reveals – something that should outrage ALL citizens of this country, regardless of gender.
And even with respect to the women who ARE in positions of political influence, the media constantly sexualizes, belittles and genderizes their contributions and accomplishments by playing utmost importance on their appearance and negatively focusing on “weak” aspects of the feminine psyche. This is not only disrespectful to our strong female role models (particularly as these things are never put upon powerful men by the media) but more significantly, it discourages young women from forming and pursuing political aspirations.
The film is vast in its critical finer points – I could write endlessly about it, but I don’t want to get into TOO much detail and scoop it! 😉 However, make no mistake about it: this is an important which I feel strongly that every woman and girl should see and discuss. Mother’s Day is around the corner – and Miss Representation would make a GREAT gift for any Mom – we definitely recommend this film, wholeheartedly.