Miss Representation (2011, USA) is a documentary film about how the American Media misrepresents women. The screening tonight was hosted by the Calgary Sexual Health Centre, and had a spectacular audience turn out. The screening SOLD OUT and had a wait list, in the Globe Cinema downtown Calgary, on a -30*C Wednesday night. (Shocking)
The screening of Miss Representation was 85 minutes followed by a panel discussion and Q&A with the Calgary Sexual Health Centre’s board members, prominent editors and Professor in Gender & Popular Culture from UofC.
The film Miss Representation as a documentary was from the perspective of the Director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who is a former actor, new mother of a daughter, questioning the negative portrayal of woman in the media world around her. The opening of this film was a quote (“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any” –Alice Walker). The film introduces the narrator with her own voice explaining why she is working on the documentary, she is pregnant with a baby girl, she has begun to reflect on her own struggles in growing up as a woman and how they have impacted the person she has become. There is footage and photos of her as a child, some Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick) type imagery with sun gleaming through trees, but for the most part the edits are to dreadful statistics about how woman are affected by eating disorders, rape, depression…etc. Very sad stuff. The film then transitions to a mix of statistical information being addressed by the likes of awesome women, Gloria Steinem, Condoleezza Rice, Rachel Maddow, Katie Couric, Margaret Chow, and Jane Fonda to name a few. Their interviews are edited with more dismal statistics and graphic images in the media of women being subjectified by the male gaze. This documentary focus’ mainly on television media, and because of that seemed a little Michael Moore-ish when the message was being delivered. The musical arrangements (done by a man, Eric Holland) seemed about as sincere and hopeful as a late night infomercial for the Bowflex Treadclimber… the really inspiring, gonna change your life melody.
Miss Representation premiered at Sundance Film Festival, and then was picked by OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. The message in the film is one that is very relivent and important, we need to teach our children about equality, and to be analytical about what we see/hear in the media, we especially need to teach our daughters their worth in society before the media gets to them.
This documentary was very American in how, just like in News Broadcasts like Nancy Grace or Anderson Cooper, it sensationalizes the issue, so the message ends up softer or perhaps not as clearly stated as it needs to be, that being said, it is still an important message that is brought to the forefront to be addressed.
Image: Dawn Johnston PhD, Sarah Ivany and Shelley Youngblut
The panel discussion following the film was very straight forward and delivered the message the film more graphically divulged, but by locally successful woman connected to local media and society. The panel consisted of Sarah Ivany, (Managing Editor of Freehand Books, an award-winning literary publishing company based here in Calgary, former board member of the Book Publishers Association of Alberta, teacher of creative writing to teenagers through the Writers Guild of Alberta), Dawn Johnston, (a faculty member in the Department of Communication and Culture at the University of Calgary, holding a PhD in Communication Studies with a specialization in media constructions and representations of queer Studies and Contemporary Queer Cinema), and Shelley Youngblut, (the Globe and Mail’s Western Editor, former editor-in-chief of Swerve magazine, founder of SwerveCalgary.com, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 Western Magazine awards, and mother of twin 11-year-old daughters).
In the panel discussion the message that was clear is that, we as parents, or as woman need to teach children to be media savy, to engage them in a way that isn’t intimidating to them, to ask them questions, model our behavior, dialogue and vocabulary in a way that teaches children to identify what is media and what is the correct way for woman to be represented. We need to teach individuals their value in our society and how we all contribute as a whole. Special thanks to the Calgary Sexual Health Centre for hosting this screening and for the work you do in our city.
Miss Representation will be screening again in Calgary on Sunday February 5, 2012 at 10:30am in the Plaza Theater in Calgary hosted by Church, My Style (for tickets click on the link HERE) I highly recommended buying tickets immediately based on how fast this film SELLS OUT!