Here She Is...
Did you happen to catch the Miss USA pageant on Sunday night? You know, the one that Miss Rhode Island--MISS RHODE ISLAND--won? Woot. Woot. Indeed, that was shocking enough 'round these parts, but more interesting to me was the final question posed to Miss Ohio, Audrey Bolte, by Judge Marilu Henner.
Henner asked, "Do you think women are depicted in movies and on television in an accurate and positive way? And please give us an example."
Miss Ohio, I got this one.
Granted, I'm not dealing with the high pressure stakes of live tv, but the answer seems real easy. An accurate or positive portrayal? Hell to the no. The no-brainer example: 'The Real Housewives' series on Bravo. When was the last time that you had screaming fests with your 'girlfriends', then continued to invite them over for a glass of wine, week after week?
Miss Ohio's take? Slightly different. Her reply:
"I think it depends on the movie. I think there are some movies that depict women in a very positive role and then some movies that put them in a little bit more of a negative role. But by the end of the movie, they show that woman power, that I know we all have. Such as the movie Pretty Woman. We had a wonderful, beautiful woman Julia Roberts, and she was having a rough time, but you know what, she came out on top and she didn't let anybody stay in her path."
Initially, when I was alerted to this controversy, by my man on the pop culture scene, otherwise known as my husband, Andre, I was shocked and awed. And not in a good way. But the more I thought about it, the more that I realized that it wasn't Miss Ohio's fault that she chose this fairy tale of a streetwalker to illustrate the positive portrayal of women in film. At all.
My epiphany came courtesy of a recently viewed documentary called Miss Representation. Writer/director Jennifer Siebel Newsom sets out to examine and expose how mainstream media not only works as the most persuasive force in our country, but also contributes to shaping our cultural norms.
And not in a good way.
The overriding message that's being showcased over the airwaves? That a woman's value and power lie in her youth, beauty and sex appeal. Not her intelligence. Not her drive. Not her problem solving ability. Not her independence. And certainly not in her ability to work out of whatever her current predicament may be.
Without the help. Of Richard Gere.
There's a whole lot of reasons for this, but one, as explained by Miss Representation, is that only three percent of clout positions in mainstream media are held by women. So those Hollywood stories marketed as stories of female empowerment, aren't really stories of female empowerment after all. The same way that Pretty Woman, well, isn't.
And on a national stage, you, Miss Ohio just proved a powerful point. Only it wasn't the one that you were aiming for.