Miss Representation – a documentary mini-review

The other day I watched the documentary Miss Representation – from their site, “the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. Thefilm challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.”

I usually don’t see a lot of advertising other than in print – I don’t watch commercial TV, so really all I see is the stuff before films at the cinema. But just the other day I was outraged by the ridiculous portrayal of a woman vs a man in this super gross X-Men tie-in ad for a Carl’s Jnr burger (not to mention the whole sexualization of meat issue..). I can understand that companies need to advertise, but what I can’t abide by is how frequently advertising looks like this. It frustrates me that tactics like this exist, and persist. This is just one drop in a huge bucket of offensive advertising/media.

The documentary speaks to this issue quite a bit – the portrayal of women in order to sell to men is so woven into media advertising, and it’s even become par for the course in how TV shows are produced in order to support that advertising. It’s interesting (and yes, frustrating) to see the statistics and people talking about this issue, as well as more broadly the portrayal of women in news media as well as TV/movies/print. They speak with some very savvy teenage girls & boys, as well as interviewing a range of academics & people from the industry – men and women.

Of course, the picture it paints is not a great one. Media has shaped the way that women see themselves, and the way that they see each other – not to mention how they’re viewed by men. I’m a 34 year old woman who still can’t get past the fact that I inherently feel like I should have a flat stomach and no love handles, so I understand what sort of affect this can have on a person. I think it’s even more overwhelming for teenagers and young adults now, though.

While the film is fairly blatant and doesn’t sugar-coat, it does also look at some aspiring ways that young people are trying to take charge and change the status quo. Young women who are trying to be leaders, even though society tells them they shouldn’t (even in the most subtle ways). Teenagers who are calling bullshit on the ways women are portrayed in the media. The movement that the film is trying to create with ideas like #notbuyingit, and the push for media literacy for not just young people, but everyone.

If I had the skills, I think I’d be crusading for media literacy, myself. By not passively dismissing some form of media (be it news, advertising, entertainment) and questioning it to understand the motives and how it represents, we can challenge stereotypes and harmful messages that have been driven home for years in damaging ways. This documentary is a great start towards understanding that, and the implications of mis-representations in media. I encourage you all to check it out, and especially watch it with the youth in your life – or encourage them to! Watch the trailer below, see if there’s a screening near you, or catch it on Netflix like I did.


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2 responses to “Miss Representation – a documentary mini-review”

  1. Shannon Alberta says :

    I thought it was a great film too. I’m so happy it exists as a resource for young people!

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