Film Reaction: Culture, Gender Socialization and the Media
Miss Representation is a documentary movie that investigates the influence of the mass media on the self-perception of women in the contemporary society. It aims at showing that the mainstream culture creates a specific sexualized image of a woman that can be neither a successful scientist nor a leader because her power is only in her sexual appearance. Such modern tendency influences the lives of girls and women of all ages and often leads to serious emotional and social problems. The film features the major concepts that form the self-image of contemporary women, which are crucial for understanding the sociological impact of the popular media.
The main idea of the movie is the assumption that no one can become something they are not aware of. The mass media creates a cult of a visual model that determines behavior and self-perception of a person. The boys see the message that they have to be aggressive and dominating. The girls from their earliest age learn that the power of females is in their sexuality, beauty, and, of course, youth. As the result, children, especially girls, direct all their efforts not to the development of their personalities, studying, and searching for the life mission. They try to become slimmer, more stylish, more sexually attractive, more fashionable, and younger while growing up.
It is possible to imagine the negative impact that such propaganda has on the psychological health of females. Perhaps, all women and girls are not content with their looks because it is impossible to keep pace with the constantly changing fashion industry. In addition, not all girls are born with the Barbie-like faces and figures, therefore, the impossibility to change something in their appearance in order to correspond to the popular image of beauty makes thousands of girls suffer.
According to the data mentioned in the movie, the depression rate among women of all ages, including young girls, has increased in two times during the last decade. In 2014, cause of the mortality among the teenage girls was the growing number of suicides. Girls who go to the primary school are not happy with their appearance, and almost 50 percent of them want to become thinner, which is nonsense from the grown-up point of view. However, not only schoolgirls fall under the influence of the stereotypical image of the right gender behavior. As mentioned above, the media teaches the boys to be aggressive, and the implied message of the mass culture to them is to take everything with power and dominate. As the result, according to the information discussed in Miss Representation, almost 10 percent of women had experienced sexual violence when they dated someone. These facts show that there is a direct dependence between the representation of women and men in the society and the popular culture imposed through mass media.
The documentary features the idea of media centralization that is one of the central issues that lead to a number of social and emotional problems of women. First of all, mass media focuses on the objectification of women’s bodies. It is evident in the majority of musical videos where women are almost naked and appear in the sexual poses in the majority of cases. In fact, the message of the mass media both to women and men is that a woman is not a personality but a body, which men have to desire. If men do not want to have intercourse with a woman when her body does not meet the standards of the sexual beauty of the modern time, the woman is worthless.
Another problem that appears due to the popular media is the sexualization of young girls. As mentioned earlier, girls who are 6-10 years old want to be thinner because they consider themselves unattractive. In fact, it means that they are not sexually attractive as females because, according to the present day standards of beauty, a woman has to be slim. It is possible to state that even the desire of small girls to meet the standards of having the body, which is attractive to men, is a serious problem. It induces indirectly pedophilia and increases the chances that a girl will start her sexual life in the abnormally early age because the society stimulates it through television, fashion, and the Internet.
The film features the interviews of average teenage girls that show that their self-perception is determined by the popular media greatly. To start with, the mass culture imposes the image of the ideal body that all women should desire. If 50 years ago medicine and health determined the beauty standards concerning the weight, nowadays society considers a woman with extremely low weight to be attractive. The problem is that women from their teenage years start keeping to the unhealthy diet or even starve because they want to be fashionable. When the body mass index is under norm, the problems with the endocrine system appear, and they are difficult to treat. Eating disorders are among the most urgent problems of the teenagers. It is possible to assume that the way in which women appear in the popular media harms not only the emotional sphere of females but also their physical health.
The interviews with average girls are combined with the ones of the well-known female scientist, politician, and leader that show the women who are successful not only in the beauty industry. These females rarely appear on television, in the popular movies and commercials, that is why the teenage girls cannot follow their example. There is an evident inequality and differentiation of power between women and men in the majority of the professional spheres of the society. According to the popular image, a top executive in the international company is a man, and his secretary is a woman, not vice versa. He is intelligent and successful, and she is beautiful. Such images are quite primitive, and it is possible to claim that no one believes in such stereotypes. However, the real state of things shows that despite the fact that everyone talks about equal opportunities in the professional sphere, the image of a sexually appealing secretary that helps a man still exists and regularly appears in popular movies.
The documentary Miss Representation is accurate in showing the biases that exist in the contemporary society. The interviews with the teenage girls depict the real situation in the optimal way because they are the most susceptible to the public opinion and have unstable psyche due to their age and hormonal balance. It is possible to claim that teenage girls do not have a formed self-esteem; they only try to construct the image of themselves and apply it in practice. Perhaps, all of them want to belong to a community of peers, and thus to be popular. This desire explains their search for the ideal, but the initial impossibility to meet all the requirements of the constantly changing beauty industry results in the nervous breakdowns, eating disorders, problems with gender identity, and low self-esteem.
The mass media has also affected my life in many aspects, especially when I was in my early teenage years. I realized that I did not look like a TV star or a fashion model, and my body proportions were not like the ones of the adult people. It is not a problem for me now, but at that time I thought that I was very far from the ideal. Even more, I thought that I was absolutely ugly, and no one would be able to love me in future. These feelings disturbed me and did not allow me to study normally. I often could not concentrate during my classes because I thought about my appearance and the reaction of my classmates on my looks.
My self-image was also influenced by the popular media in the aspect of gender roles. I really thought that a girl should be feminine, beautiful, and kind, and a boy should be masculine, dominating, aggressive, and initiative. I had met many people who did not fit into these standard gender roles, and I thought that there was something wrong with them. Sometimes I despised them for being unable to be successful like the stars from the mass media, and sometimes I felt pity for them. In the majority of cases, I preferred not to communicate with such people as if they were ill and could infect me. Nowadays I can assume that the representation of gender roles and beauty standards in the media made me think stereotypically. Such way of thinking in prejudged categories oversimplified my world view and did not allow me to see the diversity that surrounded me every day of my life. In fact, imposing the standard of something is the crime against free mind and unique personality because real beauty is in being authentic in finding and fulfilling the life mission.