Time for my yearly blog post

August 30, 2013

My friend and I watched the documentary “Miss Representation” (http://www.missrepresentation.org, it’s also streaming on Netflix) last night, and now I’m feeling all blog-y. It covers women’s representation, or lack thereof, in the media and a bunch of gross statistics about how women are underrepresented in the media industry.

30 Rock did a taped live episode a la SNL that I just watched, and Jane Krakowski does a bit as a female Fox News anchor (complete with flowing blonde hair) where she sounds like she’s about to introduce herself as a news anchor (“I’m Walter Cronkite”), but says “Good evening everyone, I’m…blonde.” This was basically “Miss Representation” boiled down into a one-liner, which is why 30 Rock is the only thing I watch ever.*

*Besides Golden Girls sometimes. Variety is the spice of life.

The documentary featured a lot of famous ladies/men from nonprofits, etc. and a lot of high school students that you can tell are probably going to be everyone’s bosses someday. Some reflections:

Women make up some ridiculously small percentage of leadership roles in media corporations. It’s obviously fine that men have their views on the table, but for popular media to be broadcasting to the entire “democratic” nation, it’s not obviously fine that women are not equally represented regarding the content of television. Trash/guilty pleasure television is generally competition-based, and it’s usually women fighting for one thing and turning against each other. Trash/guilty pleasure television is marketed toward mostly women and made by middle-aged men, and it teaches women to compete against each other to be the most “ideal” female image. I typically have terrible strategy, which is why I hate board games, but I do know that creating discord amongst your enemies is the easiest way to defeat them.

(Fun Fact that proves my point: Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan director, subtly pitted Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman against each other when they weren’t shooting, so the on-screen tension of competition would be stronger. Like that movie needed to be more tense.)

Back to Miss Rep. Another point was that the dehumanization of any group is the first step toward justifying violence toward them, which was basically all I thought about my senior year at college (woohoo!) The stock image of a beautiful Western woman, however that came about, is crafty genius because basically no one can look like that, and whoever does naturally gets a ton of money to try to sell that image to other women. Those few famous models get a ton of money because it’s a good investment for the businesses that pay them – they get to perpetuate that image and make more money off of it. While 99% of girls are not able to look like this and they know it, there’s still the niggling worm in their brain saying “Maybe you could still try.”

The attempted cloning of young women in this image makes me think of lumping genocide-targeted populations into the same uniform, under the same heading, and ignoring all personal differences – dehumanization. It’s not exactly the same. But it’s not exactly the most different. Any society where individual differences and abilities aren’t celebrated is generally not going to be remembered favorably. Except that whoever is responsible for the popular media content are being manipulative geniuses about it, and making half of society do the work themselves by focusing with hatred on superficial aspects of themselves and competing with others, and trying to win the competition by spending money.

Seeing the high school girls in the documentary talking about issues was all fresh-airy. Those girls juxtaposed with the footage of reality show ladies made the latter look like freakish cartoons, and it makes me feel hungover and gross just to look at their faces. There’s so much time and money spent to make women waste time and money, with some mysterious end goal. If I could just get my stomach flatter – If I could just get my legs slightly smaller – If my face was shaped just a little differently – then…what? You’ll be happy? All the boys will like you and all the girls will be jealous and that will make you truly fulfilled forever and ever? The “prize” of approval at the end is elusive, because a girl with that mindset will never see themselves as complete. Contempt breeds contempt.

As an aside, there’s nothing wrong with trying to look nice. Humans have been decorating themselves since they found shiny stuff. Doing your hair and putting stuff on your face to highlight what you actually look like is not bad. Doing a bunch of crazy shit to make yourself look like what a bunch of crazy 30-50 year old dudes in media want women to look like is (I’m going to be judgmental) bad. It’s bad because it makes girls chase something unattainable, and spend a bunch of money doing it because it’s such an unattainable image for the majority of women.

None of what I just stated are really new ideas, and I’m not really looking for Hallelujah sister! responses. It just is fun to call attention to the fact that our society doesn’t have to be stuck in this rut. I’ll go out on a limb and say there are better ways to sell things than having a weird plastic-looking lady’s legs sticking out of the trunk of car like she was murdered, and then dumped in the trunk of a car while a man digs her grave. I can’t believe that sentence is a thing.

All of this seems so obvious, but then we see an ad with a lady’s legs sticking out of the trunk of a car, and our brain says “Oh, just another sexist ad of a lady’s legs sticking out of the trunk of a car LIKE SHE WAS MURDERED AND DUMPED IN THE TRUNK OF A CAR and that makes me want to buy expensive shoes, sort of.”

And it’s not like it would be Girl Power! if the woman was digging the man’s grave. Let’s just stay away from stirring our psychological cravings for buying stuff by killing either gender, how’s that? Is that all we have creatively? I know a lot of creative people, but they’re busy educating kids rather than making money in the advertising industry. (Another 30 Rock quote: Tracy Morgan is talking about how much he’ll make for being in his new movie, which is “1 million…teacher salaries!”)

Sucks to suck, USA, if the nation is freaking out about falling behind internationally, but we  continually settle for bringing out the worst in people through popular media. Clearly there are good people doing good things, but when the dominant voices in our daily lives serve to distract us rather than develop us, that’s scary and sad.

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