After reading Heather and John’s blog posts, I decided to give my two cents on Miss Representation as well. I also found some flaws in Newsom’s documentary and the presentation she gave here at BSU. Actually, too many to fully analyze in the span of a blog post because I’m lazy, but I’ll touch on a few.
First, I think she negated the responsibility we have as consumers. It’s easy to point the finger at the media, but at what point does the media’s responsibility end and the consumer’s responsibility begin? I would argue that consumer responsibility supersedes media responsibility. As consumers, we can choose whether or not to tune into a program. If a consumer deems a program to be particularly damaging, why not shut it off? After all, if enough consumers follow suite, the program’s funding and rating would eventually tank, and it would be removed from the air. And this all raises another question—who are the consumers? Reports show that women generally consume more television than men, by as much as an average of 40 minutes a day (excluding video game time). And this is just straight television time—I’d be curious to see the viewer demographics on tabloid shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. So while, according to Newsom’s documentary, men may generally have more say as media producers, women may generally have more say as media consumers. And the persistence of programs like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo can only evince that consumers are allowing them to exist.
Second, Newsom made kind of an unwarranted jab at capitalism. She characterized the media as these big capitalist exploiters—constantly selling us products without any sense of morality. Assuming this is true, how can we be sure Newsom is not guilty of the exact same thing? What is Miss Representation if not a money-making, capitalist machine? Miss Representation is not a nonprofit piece of media. In other words, the proceeds go to Newsom, not the cause she claims to support. How are we to know that she is not exploiting the social-conscious youth that her documentary is directed towards? If she truly wanted to establish credibility and solidify her position against the supposed exploits of capitalist media, why not make Miss Representation not-for-profit and donate its revenue to her supposed cause? Newsom may be using the exact business model she criticizes by masking it as social justice.
Third, at one point during Miss Representation, Paul Haggis claims that the 20s, 40s, and 50s were a better time for women in the media. He states that, back then, “we allowed women to really embody all of the contradictions that make up a human being,” and concluded that 50s media accepted women as “complex human beings.” And yet later in the documentary, the same time period is criticized as being non-progressive. Jane Fonda states, “This [gender inequality] is not new.” She says that even in the 50s women were being exploited in the media, using the fact that her film executive asked her to “wear falsies” as evidence. Why did Newsom choose to include two contradicting pieces of evidence in her documentary? To me, this either shows a large executive oversight on Newsom’s part, or her willingness to utilize any unfiltered speck of evidence to sell her idea, self-contradictory or otherwise. It makes me question other evidence she uses—where else does she (perhaps more subtly) contradict herself?
Lastly, Newsom chose to conclude her documentary with these final words spoken by Dianne Feinstein, “Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as a man to be thought of as half as good; luckily that’s not too difficult.” I thought this was an extremely poor conclusion. While Newsom persistently stated in her BSU presentation that gender inequality should not be viewed in terms of “males vs. females,” I feel that Feinstein’s words do just that. They encourage a rift between males and females by placing them at odds with each other, and the fact that this is the very last message imparted by Miss Representation speaks volumes. Why not instead conclude the documentary with words of unity?
So while I fully agree and support what (I hope) is Newsom’s ultimate goal, gender equality, I disagree with a lot of the methods she is using to achieve it. And don’t get me wrong, I agree with some of the methods she uses as well. For instance, I found some of the empirical data Newsom cites to be astounding and some to be, better yet, verifiable, but ultimately I think that the utter fallaciousness of a few methods really undermines her cause as a whole.
But as I said, this is just my two cents. What do you guys think?
P.S. I really didn’t intend for this post to be so lengthy when I began writing it, so kudos if you were able get through it. As I’m sure you must be visually stunted by now, please indulge in amusing yourself back to health. Here, have a LOLCAT.