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Miss Representation, Essay Example

Pages: 3

Words: 949

Essay

The trailer for the upcoming documentary, Miss Representation, will likely garner a strong reaction from viewers, especially the young female viewers at whom this documentary appears to be aimed.  Although the issue of objectifying women through media representations affects all media consumers, regardless of gender, the trailer implies that young girls are the most vulnerable to the self-esteem and body consciousness issues that arise from being exposed to overly-sexualized and unrealistic images of women and girls.  The trailer also looks at the media through a wide lens, incorporating popular culture, politics, and the manner in which children are specifically targeted by the mass media to advance its theory that young girls are being actively exploited by various forms of media including movies, television shows, and the Internet.

Frerickson and Roberts’ (1997) theory of the objectification of women helps to clarify the ways in which the trailer for Miss Representation may have an affect on its audience.  In their article “Objectification Theory: Toward Understanding Women’s Lived Experiences and Mental Health Risks,” they argue that girls and women are exposed to a variety of external images which send them distinct and largely negatives about the manner in which they are expected to look, act, and accept unrealistic depictions of women (Frederickson & Roberts, 1997).  They suggest that because women tend to internalize these depictions, and have been culturally conditioned to accept them without question, women and girls become objectified and can be at risk for a number of different mental and physical disorders including low self esteem, anorexia, and depression.

This theory is echoed in the trailer for Miss Representation, as it is structured in such a way as to draw a correlation between media images drawn from video games, magazines, and movies and the girls and women who watch these images.  Additionally, although not discussed at length in Frederickson and Roberts’ article, the trailer for Miss Representation looks at the manner in which boys develop unhealthy and unrealistic expectations towards girls and women based on what they see in the mass media.  The overall message of the Miss Representation trailer is that the media has grown exponentially with the introduction of the Internet and other new technologies without developing an accompanying system of checks and balances to ensure that people are protected from some of the more inflammatory images that are presented to them.  When viewed through Frederickson and Roberts’ objectification theory, it becomes clear that the mass media can present substantial and long-term dangers to the viewing public because of its depiction of women as sexual and sexualized objects who possess little will of their own and exist only for the pleasures of men (“Miss Representation”, 2011).

The studies conducted by Choma and colleagues regarding the reaction of audiences to the body image documentary Slim Hopes suggests that viewers will have both positive and negative reactions after viewing the Miss Representation trailer.  In polling audiences after they viewed Slim Hopes, a documentary that does not differ greatly in subject matter from Miss Representation, they found that the majority of viewers felt educated, inspired, and motivated to make changes in their own media viewing habits (Choma et al., 2007). However, there were also instances where negative reactions were reported by viewers, especially amongst those who felt that they had been misled or manipulated by the media.  As well, Choma and colleagues identified the possibility that media literacy interventions (such as the viewing of the documentary Slim Hopes) can further objectify women by putting them in a position where they engage in self-objectification.  This could be one possible outcome for female viewers of the Miss Representation trailer; because the trailer is concerned with the power of the media and the manner in which it misrepresents both male and female bodies, the trailer is largely image-based and shows a slew of still and video images of women in various stages of undress.  Although it may be necessary to show such images in order to demonstrate what is common fodder within the media today, the repeated viewing of such images could lead female viewers to compare themselves (negatively, perhaps) to the female bodies on screen, thus engaging in self-objectification (Choma et al., 2007).

According to both Frederickson and Roberts (1997) and Choma and colleagues (2007), women are at a heightened risk of both internal and external objectification due to the unrestrained manner in which the media sensationalizes and sexualizes the female body.  This negative trend is further amplified by the trailer for Miss Representation (2011) which illustrates how pervasive this problem has become with the advance of new media technologies which have resulted in people spending more time exposed to the mass media than in previous generations.  If one was attempting to accurately gauge the effect of viewing this trailer, it may be effective to mimic the outcome variables used by Choma and colleagues which would require one to consider how viewing the documentary impacted on the viewer’s self esteem, positive affect, and negative affect (Choma et al., 2007).  The objectification theory (Frederickson & Robert, 1997) is crucial to understanding why viewers will have a mixed response to this trailer, as much of what men and women view in the mass media becomes internalized (especially in the case of women) and can later lead to them feeling manipulated by the media when they are given an opportunity to develop media literacy and awareness (Choma et al., 2007).

References

Choma, B.L., Foster, M.D., & Radford, E. (2007). Use of objectification theory to examine the            effects of a media literacy intervention on women. Sex Roles, 56: 581-591. doi:10.1007/s11199-007-9200-x

Frederickson, B.L. & Roberts, T.A. (1997). Objectification theory: Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental health risks.

Miss Representation. (2011). Trailer.  Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/28066212

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