This post is cross-posted with www.MissRepresentation.org, in advance of the film’s debut tonight on OWN, 9pm (8c).
In Miss Representation, actress-activist Rosario Dawson talks about how important it is for women to write their own stories. This is equally important in entertainment and in journalism alike.Yet as I discuss in the film, today’s media climate is extremely toxic for women and girls, and for people of color. That’s because the main purpose of TV programming today is not to entertain, engage or inform us. Sad but true: the purpose is generate sky-high profits for the six major conglomerates (Disney, Time Warner, NewsCorp, Viacom, CBS and General Electric) that own and control the vast majority of what we’re given to watch, see, hear and play in newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, movies, billboards and video games.
As a result, women are misrepresented and marginalized as op-ed writers, front-page news sources, lead anchors, and broadcast journalism commentators… that is, when they aren’t missing entirely (as decades of research document). Scripted entertainment isn’t much better. As filmmaker Nia Vardalos wrote at WIMN’s Voices, Hollywood studios ignore data that show that audiences actually do want to support films with strong female leads, calling the success of “Sex and the City” and “Mamma Mia” “a fluke.” When Nia tried to follow up her hit “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” with a new script, studio execs pressured her to change female leads to male characters—exactly the opposite of the kind of climate Rosario Dawson is rightly calling for.
DVR Alert: Tune in to the award-winning documentary “Miss Representation” TONIGHT, Oct. 20, 9pm(8c) on OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network).
I had the honor of being an adviser on — and being interviewed in — this powerful film about women and the media. “Miss Representation” is the first mainstream film to delve into sexism in commercial media — from advertising and pop culture’s sexualization of girls, to triggering eating disorders, to media normalizing violence against women, to reality TV as anti-feminist backlash (which I discuss both in the film and Reality Bites Back), to double standards in news reporting on female politicians, to the trivialization of women who work in broadcast news, to the causal role advertising and media consolidation plays in all of this, to the need for media literacy to help youth and adults become more active, critical media consumers.
OWN will decide whether to re-air “Miss Representation” based in large part on the ratings it draws tonight. So please tune in… and ask five friends to set their DVRs as well. Tweet it, Facebook it, email people. (If for no other reason than the cognitive dissonance that results from seeing me and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agree on something!)
I am extremely humbled to announce that Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV has been voted by Ms. readers onto Ms.‘s Top 100 Feminist Non-Fiction Books list.
The magazine is revealing their Top 100 list in batches of ten books at a time, and so far I am blown away by the heavy-hitter company in which I have found myself. Fellow Top 100 authors include, in no particular order: bell hooks, Assata Shakur, Robin Morgan, Melissa Harris-Perry, Eve Ensler, Leslie Feinberg, Gloria Feltd, Judtih Butler, and many other impressive writers of both classic feminist texts as well as emerging thought leaders. Some of these writers I have the pleasure of calling friends, and a few have been formative intellectual role models in my work.
The depth of the authors I’m sharing this space with is mind-blowing. I’m not sure if any award has made me this happy since I got a “certificate of hotness” from The Real Hot 100 back in 2006 (award slogan: “See how hot smart can be!”). In both cases, being counted among brilliant, landscape-altering women is a shot in the arm for those days when the #brokeasswriter / #brokeassactivist life feels a bit too frustrating. It’s honors like these that remind me that the work I’m doing is making an impact, and it helps me keep going.
As a born-and-bred Brooklynite — and a lit geek, ‘natch — I’m thrilled to be bringing Reality Bites Back to the fifth annual Brooklyn Book Festival, along with brilliant writers including Laura Flanders, Jeremy Scahill, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and several Pulitzer Prize winners.
WHERE: Brooklyn Historical Society Main Hall (128 Pierrepont Street, Brooklyn, NY)
WHEN: 5pm, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011
WHAT: Media Representations and Reality: The debate continues over whether the media reflects reality or has a hand in shaping it. Like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the act of presenting the news can very often alter it. No one knows this better than Brooke Gladstone of “On the Media,” whose new book The Influencing Machine with Josh Neufeld examines the role of the media in American society. Patrice Evans, (Negropedia), examines media representations of African-Americans, and Jennifer Pozner (Reality Bites Back) looks at the completely unreal world of reality television. Moderated by Juan Gonzalez (News for All the People).
Haven’t heard yet from the panel organizers about whether I’m going to be giving prepared remarks, just answering questions from the moderator, or both, but whatever the format, I’ll do my best to discuss the media economics, product placement advertising, and virulent institutional sexism and racism at play within reality television. And I’ll throw in some laughs, like I do…
VIDEO: Jennifer L. Pozner on CBC News “Connect with Mark Kelley”: 25th anniversary of “The Real World”
Yesterday, I wrote that I’d be appearing on CBC News’s Connect with Mark Kelley to discuss the state of reality television on the 25th anniversary of MTV’s iconic The Real World. Today, I’m happy to share the interview with you. My discussion is part of the following six-minute video package, starting at 2:14:
DVR ALERT: Tonight (3/9), 8:45pm EST: I discuss the 25th Anniversary of “The Real World” with CBC News “Connect with Mark Kelley”
Quick hit: Tonight, to mark the premiere of the 25th season of The Real World, I’ll be on the CBC News show Connect with Mark Kelley to discuss how reality TV has morphed from one iconic (yet fringe) MTV show about strangers living together in 1992, to the landscape-altering genre it became once it traveled to network television in 2000.
Connect with Mark Kelley airs live from 8 – 9pm EST; I’m told that my segment will air at 8:45pm. Tune in live, or watch it online at http://www.cbc.ca/connect/
(And for those of you who care about such things… why, yes, that will be a big box of tissues right outside the camera’s frame! I’m battling a nasty cold right now. Just consider me your puffy-eyed, red-nosed media analyst, at your service!)
I hope to be able to address some of the following, from the introduction to Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV (all footnotes available in the book; bracketed descriptions and names provided here for context):
As Entertainment Weekly reported last week, MTV will air No Easy Decision, a one-time special about teens who have had abortions, tonight at 11:30pm EST, an unfortunate ratings graveyard timeslot. (Exhale, a support organization for women who have had abortions, has organized an excellent companion campaign, “16 & Loved,” where you can send your love and support to the brave young women profiled in the special, and through which young women can support one another. More on that below. Also at the bottom of this post: a viewers guide to help you watch the MTV special with a critical eye.)
Billed as a follow-up to the Viacom channel’s popular 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom, the special will allow three young women who have had abortions discuss the reasons why they chose to end their pregnancies, and share their feelings about the experience. This is a long-overdue and needed addition to the reality TV discussion about teen pregnancies, nearly a third of which end in abortion — a fact that has been 100% absent on MTV until now.
Are you a last-minute Christmas gift-giver? Do you owe belated Chanukah and Solstice presents? Well, take it from Feministing, Isak, Hello Ladies and Women’s Voices for Change: Reality Bites Back makes the perfect gift!
I wrote the book to spark a national conversation about the meaning and impact of reality TV on our culture, and in doing so I hoped to make media literacy not only enlightening, but fun. So, I’m really excited to see Reality Bites Back popping up on holiday gift guides by respected media outlets and blogs who seem to find the book engaging and enjoyable. I’m also gratified and flattered to see the book recommended by readers on Twitter as “The Must-Have Book This Season” and discussed as good holiday reading options on Facebook by professors who say, “I’ve read it, I’ve taught it, Jenn has been in LA to discuss it — I’m all about it. If you haven’t yet, go get it!”
At Feministing, the book tops Courtney Martin’s “Not Oprah’s Book Club: Holiday Edition” gift guide:
Yesterday, a Jezebel headline about my weekend brouhaha with Sarah Palin’s Alaska summed up what I promised TLC I wouldn’t discuss on record: “Sarah Palin’s Alaska is scared of their own viewers.”
Jezebel’s Anna North’s post brings into stark relief how certain segments on the right are using fear and intimidation to create a chilling effect over media content. As North summarizes, I was booked to discuss Sarah Palin’s Alaska on the official TLC podcast after Sunday night’s latest episode of the show. Then, I was abruptly uninvited from podcast because, as its host and social media strategist said, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska is not a political show” and my presence would have made the conversation — about a series-long unpaid political advertisement for the former GOP vice presidential nominee and potential future POTUS candidate — “inadvertently political.” (Yep, I know. I deconstructed that fun little bit of irony yesterday, as did Media Matters.) But, as North writes, that official explanation wasn’t the whole story. In fact, “organizers were worried about what Palin supporters might do if they got too riled up.”
Jezebel asks if my segment’s cancelation was “because the organizers of the show can’t handle anybody even mildly badmouthing Palin? Well, not exactly.”:
Media Matters for America has weighed in on TLC’s decision to invite — and then uninvite — me to participate in a podcast about the reality show, Sarah Palin’s Alaska. (My previous two blog posts have discussed what I originally agreed to talk about on the podcast, followed by my response to my segment being scrapped.)
Media Matters’ post is headlined, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska cancels non-political guest’s podcast appearance, fearing politics (Yeah, right).” MM’s Jamison Foster writes:
Foster quotes from podcast host Brian Reich’s explanation for the segment’s cancellation, and his statement that “Sarah Palin’s Alaska is not a political show.” (Reich’s comments are printed in full at the bottom of yesterday’s Reality Bites Back blog post.) Foster concludes: