Tag Archives: reality

VIFF 2011 Review: Miss Representation

One of the most notable things about the VIFF is that it features a huge selection of documentaries both in the number of films aired and the variety of topics. Many documentaries are focused on topics revolving Canada. The documentary of Miss Representation is focused in the United States but one can see a lot the issues discussed in the documentary facing Canada in similar ways too.

Tired of your daughter trying to make a sex object of yourself? Tired of your daughter imitating the stupidities of reality show stars? Ever stop to think about how women are depicted on television? Ever feel a lack of female roles or smart female roles in movies? Tired of the lack of females in CEO positions or politics? While some people, including other women, overlook it, there are women that don’t and are unhappy about the state of things. This dilemma is well-stated in the documentary Miss Representation.

Miss Representation has an impressive lineup of women interviewed for this documentary from actresses like Geena Davis, Jane Fonda and Rosario Dawson to feminists like Dr. Jean Kibourne and Gloria Steinem to newscasters like Katie Couric and Rachel Maddow to politicians like Condoleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi. It does an impressive investigation of how women are portrayed in today’s media, in both entertainment and news. It highlights the negative depictions of them in ‘reality shows’ and misogynistic treatment in hip-hop videos. It shows how computer enhancements shorten a model’s waistline to an unrealistic width. It shows sexist depictions in television ads. It shows networks’ news shows hiring women for sexiness over professionalism. It shows the negative role models girls are given via reality shows and MTV. It also highlights how these images have affected their self-esteem, especially in terms of eating disorders, depression and even undergoing cosmetic surgery.

It doesn’t just stop at entertainment but also focuses on politics too. It points out the United States ranks 90th in the world in terms of the percentage of female politicians in office and noticed a decline in 2010 that was enough cause for alarm. It shows how American female politicians get more copy over what they wear than what they have to say in office. It shows how right wing conservative pundits and their ridiculing of female politicians also are part of the blame. Even conservative groups who hurl slurs at Hillary Clinton like “Iron my clothes” have their part in this. It also focuses on the business world, on how it’s like being a woman with a top position in a room full of men. It also talks of the lack of female CEOs. Funny how when we’ve made progress in the last 40 years, we learn there’s more to be done, and at a faster pace.

Mind you it doesn’t completely dwell on the negative. It also features messages of hope. It also shows of the efforts of young teenage girls in their own political pursuits. It shows a discussion with teenage students–both boys and girls– and how they feel about this. Just when you think teenage America is eating it up and enjoying it all, there are some teens that are concerned. It even talks of Miss Representation, the campaign. The documentary Miss Representation is as much a campaign as it is a documentary film. Its goals are to empower women and girls to challenge limiting labels in order to realize their potential. They are encouraging actions that lead to a cross-generational movement to eradicate gender stereotypes and create lasting cultural and sociological change. They are using various media outlets like girls using social media to speak their mind, a school curriculum to educate and encourage activism, community screenings where discussion is encouraged, and consumer empowerment to encourage the success of female-friendly entertainment.

The unique thing is that the film is done from the point of view from the director and the founder and CEO of the Miss Representation campaign. The filmmaker is Jennifer Siebel Newsom. She is married to former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom. Siebel has a Masters Degree from Stanford, completed acting studies at the American Conservatory Theatre and had done environmental work overseas through Conservation International.  Her acting credits include films like Something’s Gotta Give, Rent and In The Valley Of Elah. Her television credits include Strong Medicine, Numb3rs and Mad Men. This documentary is her directorial debut. Miss Representation is as much a personal focus of hers as it is a documentary as she filmed it just after she had given birth to her daughter and wonders what type of world she would grow up in. Anyone else who has a daughter might want to question the same thing too.

I found this documentary quite intriguing. I especially took note of what they said about entertainment. Entertainment and how it’s delivered to various peoples is a big interest of mine. Interesting is during the film, they pointed out to entertainment in the early 90’s that took women’s roles in new directions, like Thelma & Louise and A League Of Their Own. It brought back memories back in the 90’s when women were defying convention in entertainment. We had the sitcom Roseanne where the star Roseanne Barr looked like an actual mother. We had A surge of female singer/songwriters whose intimate work helped spawn off the Lilith Fair festival. Nowadays you could say it’s a memory with profit-oriented entertainment more competitive than ever. We shouldn’t forget about entertainment sinking to new lows for the sake of new highs in profits. In fact I myself could even right an essay on how the improvement of women’s image and role in music in the 90’s suddenly grounded to a halt thanks to Britney and “Oh Baby Baby…” I could also write how Paris Hilton reversed the women’s movement. Or even my thoughts on Snooki. But I’ll save it for now. I’m sure you have your own annoyances too. I’m just glad Lilith Fair hasn’t been replaced by Tartapalozza.

It also got me thinking about how things are doing in Canada. I often feel that Canada is not as sexist as the US but I’m frequently reminded that there’s still work to be done. Even though wage parity between male and female workers is closer than its ever been, female workers are still paid less than male workers. Canada ranks 50th on the world scale of females holding political office. 70 on the 308 seats in the House Of Commons are women; 27 from the victorious Conservative party. Canadian teenage girls have done their share of idolizing Britney and other reality show stars. In fact it encouraged one Canadian magazine journalist, Anne Kingston to write an article that made the cover story for Maclean’s, Canada’s national magazine. For those who want to read it, here it is: http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/08/10/outraged-moms-trashy-daughters/ Glad to see that while Americans mostly ignored this issue, one Canadian writer decided to speak up.

Miss Representation is a film that’s angry about the portrayal of women without having to ‘shout’. It shows stats and views to show its disappointment but also offers messages of hope. Jennifer Siebel Newsom put in a lot of effort and research to get her message across. I’m sure her frustration would not only be shared by mothers like her but fathers of daughters as well. For those interested in the Miss Representation campaign, go to: http://missrepresentation.org/

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From Jersey Shore To Jersey Bores: Will Stars’ 15 Minutes End Soon?

Exactly a year ago, hardly anyone had heard of anyone named Pauly D, The Sitch, Snooki or JWoww. Now they’re household names thanks to a show on MTV called Jersey Shore. Yes, their names as well as expressions like Guido, Guidette and GTL are everywhere. To go with it, the stars of the show haver been enjoying their time of celebrity. The big question is how long will their celebrity last? Do they have what it takes to continue on?

 The show started on MTV in December of 2009. It followed the lives of eight young people from New York staying along the Jersey Shore. Most were of Italian-American descent. The pilot garnered basic pilot attention but steadily grew week after week. It captured things like the stars’ dating, their images, their sex lives, their partying, their fist-pumping and their bad behavior. The popularity allowed for a season two to be made with them in Miami Beach. The third season marked a return to the Shore. Since then, the show has gone on to become the highest rated series on MTV, a quote book and a sticker book was published and a CD compilation was released. Even the bunch have become stars and household names and their public appearances garner a lot of attention, like Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino was one of the stars competing on Dancing With The Stars, Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi’s arrest in July 2010 garnered national attention, Snooki became a popular Halloween costume, and Snooki and Jenni ‘JWoww’ Farley wrote separate books.

It’s interesting how the popularity of reality television has changed television popularity for better or for worse. Ever since MTV debuted The Real World back in 1992, it introduced a new phenomenon of television: reality television. The docudrama broadcast youth culture from sexuality to prejudice to drug abuse. It caught the attention of many people in its first season. Many credit The Real World for introducing and shaping reality television as we know it. Some would be unhappy with the latter years’ focus on immature and irresponsible behavior. More reality shows came to MTV and its rating successes would cause an extinction of music videos, thus causing a second MTV channel to be created.  The reality show also led to the start of reality shows being introduced to main network television. Before 2000, did we hold Survivor parties? Or were we interested in The Bachelor’s dating life? Did we look forward to seeing Paris Hilton’s latest attempt at nailing a job? Until five years ago, television scriptwriters appeared to be an endangered species. Actors with skill were now being overlooked in favor of notorious personalities. Although scripted television series’ did make a return to the public norm five years ago, reality TV changed television forever.

With the success of reality TV shows came the stardom of its players. The Real World made stars out of their players like Puck for his poor hygiene and violent behavior and Pedro Zamora for his struggle with AIDS and homophobia. Once reality television came to network TV, it allowed for more stars like Richard Hatch, the first Survivor winner, and Alex Michel, the first Bachelor. Even stars who were long out of the spotlight returned to the public eye through shows like The Surreal Life, Celebrity Boxing and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. It really surprised a lot of acting wannabes who learned their craft for a career only to be overtaken in the fame game by these personalities. Reality television stars remind us that fame is not something you work towards or earn. It’s something you grab if the general public is willing to give it to you. However up to the early 2000’s, most reality show stars would see their star go as instantly as it came.

Consistent fame via reality television would start coming when stars knew how to build on their TV fame. The first big result came upon the heels of The Simple Life, a show about the shenanigans of two spoiled stupid girls: hotel heiress Paris Hilton and friend Nicole Richie, daughter of musician Lionel Richie. The show focused on their antics while working on a farm and travelling throughout the US and their notorious antics made stars of them both. Even after the shows’ ends, they were able to keep their stars active as the paparazzi and tabloid writers documented and photographed their every move. Paris’ raunchy car wash commercial for a fast food restaurant and even their bouts with the law made for more popular copy than government affairs. The girls know how to work the tabloid brigade to their advantage in the fame game. That would continue with Kim Kardashian and the Kardashian sisters in the show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Upon the success of the show, she posed nude for Playboy, appeared in FHM Magazine and has had model offers galore. She even launched her own tanning spray, fragrance and jewelry alongside her sisters. Then came Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag of The Hills. Their romance, smug attitudes and sleaze became the water cooler talk of 2007. Heidi and Spencer knew how to work the tabloids to their advantage with their romance, religious conversions, marriage, phony divorce and notorious behavior including Heidi’s plastic surgery. They even wrote an unapologetic tongue-in-cheek book entitled How To Become Famous. They won’t deny thier love for publicity stunts. Even Spencer said: “There are only two people in the world that are bigger fame whores than us and that’s Brangelina.” Weird how in the past, after one’s star died off, they’d have to rely on their talent to keep themselves active. Not with this crop of stars.

Now comes the stars of Jersey Shore. What are their chances of longevity after the show tanks? And believe me, it eventually will.  Snooki and JWoww have released books, JWoww had a temporary clothing line called Filthy Couture, The Situation appeared as a dancer on Dancing With The Stars and has endorsed many products, and Paul ‘Pauly D’ DelVecchio has even cut a rap record. All results minus The Sitch’s dancing have been dismal failures. It’s going to be hard for them to carry on their fame after the end of Jersey Shore. It’s going to be even harder for them to try something new and catchy that hasn’t been done before by Paris, the Kardashians or Speidi. Also none seem interested in making a tabloid sensation of themselves. Even their backstage spat at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards that made the cover of Us Magazine didn’t raise enough eyebrows. They do a lot of the talk show and late night show rounds, all coming across as likeable. Only time will tell whether they have what it takes to keep their fame active.

Or maybe it could be that they’re not worried about their future fame. For starters, they may all come across as dim bulbs on Shore but they’re actually quite smart and more responsible than thought. Before Jersey Shore, the stars all had either working jobs or studying their career pursuits. Snooki graduated from high school and attended community college with the intent of becoming a veterinarian. The Sitch managed a fitness center and turned to modeling after losing his job. Pauly D worked as a DJ. JWoww is a master at computer programming and has her own graphic design company. And Vinny Guadagnino was studying political science at the State University of New York before he heard of the Jersey Shore auditions. So they’re not complete fails at life and may be able to carry themselves after the limelight fades away.

Fan or not, the Jersey Shore stars are hard to escape. They’ve become a new reality television phenomenon and have a long road ahead of them if they want to keep their fame alive. Whether they choose to continue on the road to fame or find a career alternative, only time will tell where they end up years from now.