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!)
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):
Tonight in Washington, D.C., I’m holding my last official reading on the Reality Bites Back book tour. It is listed in the Washington Post’s “Going Out Guide Blog,” and their “Going Out Guide.” There’s also a brief interview with the Express.
Tonight, the final official book reading will be held at Busboys & Poets on 14th & V in Washington, DC from 6:30-8pm. RSVP on Facebook (though walk-ins are fine, too). If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come out for a lively discussion about gender, race and class in entertainment media — and support a fantastic local independent DC bookstore and cafe.
This month has been incredible. Journalists from Newsweek, Macleans, Ms. magazine, AOL TV Squad, the St. Petersburg Times, the Denver Post, B*tch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture, The American Prospect, and many more have written about the book. That was never a given for a feminist, anti-racist analysis of corporate media which includes extensive critique of product placement, advertising, and media consolidation — not to mention a conclusion featuring strategies for making change from more than a dozen media activists.
Quick hit from the road: All you MA-area TV fans — there are two chances to catch Reality Bites Back in Boston. Hope to see you at one of these events:
WHAT: Book reading and signing
WHEN: Nov. 19, 7pm
WHERE: Wellesley Booksmith
Why is reality television built on such blatant gender and race stereotypes? Why are women and people of color represented so harmfully, and with so much bias, in popular culture? What is “Frankenbite” editing, how many hours of tape are shot for every hour of reality TV aired, and how much cheaper is it to produce a reality show than a scripted program? Is it true that networks are simply “giving people what they want,” or is reality TV really the result of media consolidation, media economics, and stealth advertising? Find out at Wellesley Booksmith on 11/19!
And it is a HUGE honor and with great pleasure that I invite you to Trident Books on Saturday, where I’ll be sharing the mic with one of my formative influences and intellectual role models, pioneering ad critic Jean Kilbourne:
WHAT: Book reading and signing with Jennifer L. Pozner and Jean Kilbourne
TUES, Nov 16, noon: Reality Bites Back event with Jennifer L. Pozner and Jennifer Siebel Newsom, First Lady of San Francisco
11/16/2010: 12pm – 1:30pm
A conversation with Jennifer Siebel Newsom, documentarian, actress and First Lady of San Francisco, and Jennifer L. Pozner, Executive Director of Women In Media & News, media critic, author, Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth about Guilty Pleasure TV, on November 16th.
The International Museum of Women is thrilled to be hosting a noontime conversation between Jennifer Siebel Newsom, actress, filmmaker and First Lady of San Francisco, and Jennifer L. Pozner, media critic, author and Executive Director of Women in Media & News, on November 16th.
Just how real is reality television? With video clips of popular prime time TV shows and a trailer for the forthcoming film, Miss Representation, Newsom and Pozner will shed light on sexism and racism in entertainment media. Please join us for this important discussion about misrepresentations of women and people of color in reality TV, and ways you can demand media accountability.
Newsweek reviews Reality Bites Back: “Everything I Learned About Women I Learned From Reality TV” (Plus: my slideshow: “Reality TV’s 9 Worst Stock Characters”)
As a long-time media critic, I can tell you that this is not a sentence I’m accustomed to writing: Corporate media gave me a huge gift yesterday.
As I traveled to Denver (to moderate a panel and have a wine and cheese reception for my book at the Women’s Studies Association conference), Newsweek’s Jessica Bennett reviewed Reality Bites Back in a lively feature headlined, “Everything I Learned About Women I Learned From Reality TV.” Her subhead that says it all: “Which means I must think they’re all desperate, competitive, plastic-surgery-obsessed bimbos. The problem? Today’s reality entertainment is a lot more like fiction.”
I couldn’t be happier with Benett’s take on the book and the issue of representation of women in this genre throughout the last decade. She writes:
BOOK LAUNCH PARTY TONIGHT!!! NYC TWEET-UP!!!
OK, I know, all caps and three exclamation points = excessive. Still, New York City, I’m just that excited to invite you to this celebration, which has been a loooong time coming.