Ling, Couric, Rice, Maddow and more weigh in on media and power in “Miss Representation”

Here’s how compulsively watchable Miss Representation is: I couldn’t make it home for the start time, so I set my DVR to record it. I came home and turned my TV on midway through, and 20 minutes went by before I could tear myself away to go back to the beginning. It’s that important and that good.

Even if you already know a lot about the problems women face in our culture because of, you know, being one, I guarantee you will find this documentary an eye-opener in several different ways.

Writer-producer-director Jennifer Siebel Newsom builds a compelling case. She shows the way that children – who by their teen years are consuming nearly 11 hours a day of TV, movies, magazines, music, and Internet content – are taught to see women as objects whose worth should be judged almost entirely by their looks. And those beauty standards are harder and harder to achieve – digital manipulation in magazines means that the “ideal” body and face are now physical impossibilities. It’s like teaching little girls that their whole lives depend on their ability to grow wings. (Pretty, pink wings, thank you very much.)

Newsom then shows the devastating effects these lessons have – everything from increased rates of depression in women and girls to an inability to believe that they have the power to participate in politics, let alone run for office themselves.

The segments on the way female characters and actresses are treated and the way newswomen are sexualized are frustrating, but the segment on how women in political power are treated is nothing short of revolting. Regardless of how you feel about Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Nancy Pelosi, you’ll be outraged at the way the media has, for the most part, covered them. And that rampant sexism and objectification is not confined to one side of the political spectrum: both “liberal” commentator Chris Matthews and professional dung beetle Tucker Carlson, among many, many others, should watch this film and hang their heads in shame.

Miss Representation features plenty of commentary from politicians and media figures you’ve heard of, such as Katie Couric, Condoleeza Rice, Gavin Newsom, Lisa Ling, Geena Davis, and Rachel Maddow, but Newsom also includes directors, screenwriters, and academics who are far less well known to the general public. She’s also careful to get a wide range of voices, staying true to her principle that you can’t shut a group out of media representation without erasing them in some way.

This is a terrific film that even jaded feminists will find galvanizing.

Watch it, get mad, and get out there.

Miss Representation will air again on OWN this Saturday at 10 a.m. Eastern/Pacific, or you can check the film’s website to find screenings in your area.