Last night I finally sat down with Jennifer Seibel Newsom‘s Miss Representation, a 90-minute doc about the the cultural suppression of women of all ages by way of sexual pigeonholing, leering and lip-smacking. It’s an old feminist lament, but it does seem that the media has been eyeballing women in a somewhat more intensive sexual manner over the last 10 or 15 years than before. And that this “conditioning” has created an unhealthy psychology among millions of younger women, persuaded as they’ve been to shape their images, goals and personalities to suit this Maxim-ized ideal.
I’ll admit that I watched because Inside Job co-dp Svetlana Cvetko , a friend, was the doc’s principal dp. But it’s a handsome, well-edited, highly intelligent presentation all the same. And there’s no disputing most of the observations, views and personal stories it contains. It’s a fundamentally fair and honest look at an unfortunate situation.
I have three quibbles.
One, early on Newsom (wife of San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom) mentions that she’s felt somewhat guilty since childhood over the death of her older sister, but she provides no particulars. Go full disclosure if you’re going to bring something like this up, or don’t bring it up at all.
Two, a casual observer might get the idea that Miss Representation is pushing a view that trying to appear attractive to the opposite sex is somehow diminishing or self-destructive. It’s actually saying that this process has become excessive and neurotic in recent years, and that many younger women are the worse for it. It could do with a bit more exactitude.
And three, it was a huge mistake for Newsom to focus on Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin in this context. The doc implies that some media commentators labelled Hillary as a bitch and an emotional panderer out of pure sexist prejudice when (a) she certainly surged in the 2008 New Hampshire primary due to her crying moment in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and (b) she and her team were extremely ruthless and even contemptible in their use of veiled racial implication to appeal to lunch-bucket blue-collar sentiments in their attempts to defeat Sen. Barack Obama. And Palin, whom I regard as one of the most detestable life forms in the spotlight today, has certainly benefitted all her life from exploiting or at least using her looks at every turn. She’s no victim by my yardstick, and if she is, too effing bad.
Miss Representation had its premiere last night on OWN.