By kfreeland - September 26, 2013

By Katie Freeland, MPH - Global Health student *Author's note: This blog has been adapted from a post I did two years ago right after viewing this documentary for the first time. Some wording has been changed to reflect current dates/times/opinions. Full disclosure: I still have a hard time not watching/reading celebrity gossip. I also still really enjoy watching awards shows, but I view them from a different point of view now.  --------------------------------------------------------------------------- I am addicted to celebrity gossip. Correction. I used to be addicted to celebrity gossip. Three years ago you could find me sitting at a computer, surfing the web, probably reading a celebrity gossip blog. I won’t name any, though, for the sake of my argument. But then I started noticing that the gossip I was reading about these people-who-aren’t-really-people (sarcasm) was transferring over to how I perceived people I knew or met in real life. It was bad. It was unhealthy. I thought the jokes about Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton were hilarious. Now I realize it’s just sad. It’s sad that our society makes a spectacle out of these people, and pays them insane amounts of money while doing so. It’s ridiculous, and we all know it (I won’t even bring up what’s-her-face who got divorced 72 days after a $19 million wedding). Anyway, I’m not really sure why I stopped reading celebrity gossip as much as I did, besides the fact that I realized it was toxic to our society. I’ll admit, I didn’t stop completely. It’s kind of hard to avoid it. I still bought Cosmopolitan and I still watched the ever-classy E! News. Until October 17, 2011. A few days previous to the 17th, I was surfing Facebook when one of my friends posted a video called Miss Representation. It was nine minutes long, and with my attention span the way it is, I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it (anything longer than three minutes on YouTube feels like an eternity when I could be doing other extremely productive things like Facebook stalking and Twitter-updating). But for some reason, I did. I watched it. And I’m so incredibly glad I did. The video had interviews with powerful and influential women in our world, high school girls, actresses, and comediennes. It was about how our society has become saturated with sex, sex, sex, misogyny, sexism, and more sex. Advertisements, movies, television, and most shockingly, to me at least, the news. No medium is exempt, and it’s terrifying. I’m not saying sex is a bad thing (that’s a whole different can of worms ), but when sex is being used to sell costumes to 11-year-old girls, there is something wrong with our society, and something very much needs to change. As I watched the video, I became enraged. I knew things like this existed in society, but I had absolutely no idea the effect it is having on people of all genders. As the video ended, I wanted to know more about what it was talking about. Enter the documentary Miss Representation. Turns out, I had watched an extended trailer for an official selection at the Sundance film festival. I immediately went to the Miss Representation website to learn more. I was reeled in. I clicked on the screenings link, thinking I would probably have to drive a couple hours away to a bigger city to catch a screening, if I was lucky. Well, the universe aligned, and there was a screening right in my hometown at the time just a few days later hosted at The Camp House, a fantastic coffee shop in the downtown area, only a half-hour drive from where I live. So, on October 17, I met up with three of my fellow journalism friends (including my roommate) and we made an evening of it by grabbing dinner and heading to The Camp House for the screening. I was blown away. This film, written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, was life-changing to say the least. It opened my eyes to our media and how it can drastically change the way we think about things, whether we realize it or not. Eye-opening is an understatement. Now, every day I see something in the media, or even in real life, and I evaluate and scrutinize it, I investigate why it made me feel the way it did. I realize we, as a society, have been bombarded with images and propaganda and we’ve had no way to avoid it. I’m finding it impossible to put into words how influential this film has been on me personally. The easiest way to get somebody to understand, I think, is to encourage them to see the film. 

You can watch the extended, nine-minute trailer here. If you have Netflix, I can’t encourage you enough to add it to your instant queue. You will not regret watching it. I promise. And, if you're attending the APHA conference in Boston this November, you'll have a chance to catch a screening there as well at the film festival portion of the conference. Click here for a schedule of screenings. I implore you to watch this film. You will not regret it. I can promise you that. For now, I’ll leave you with this:

“The media can be an instrument of change: it can maintain the status quo and reflect the views of the society or it can, hopefully, awaken people and change minds. I think it depends on who’s piloting the plane.” –Katie Couric, Journalist