Thursday, May 23, 2024

“GIRLS STATE”

THE STORYFollows 500 adolescent girls from all across Missouri as they come together for a week-long immersion in a sophisticated democratic laboratory, where they organize a Supreme Court to consider the most contentious issues of the day.

THE CAST – Faith Glasgow, Cecilia Bartin, Nisha Murali, Brooke Taylor, Emily Worthmore & Maddie Rowan

THE TEAM – Amanda McBaine & Jesse Moss (Directors/Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 95 Minutes


Directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss’s Sundance-winning documentary “Boys State” took viewers by storm in 2020, showing what a mock government looked like with Texas adolescent boys in charge. The experiment filled some with fear, as many of those boys spouted the same talking points as other politicians, but it also gave many a sense of hope of what might be possible with thoughtful individuals in charge one day.

It was only a matter of time before the directors turned the cameras on young women going through a similar program. But rather than just be a mere copy, “Girls State” is an emotional dive into young women grappling with, at the time, a looming Supreme Court decision on Roe vs. Wade and examining how this empowering environment has limitations for females. The documentary is as inspiring, if not even more so, than its predecessor, as these young women recognize and stand up against the unfair treatment they see. If you loved the all-female Supreme Court in “Barbie,” just wait until you see this efficient and powerful one.

Since the 1930s, the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary have sponsored separate programs for boys and girls to build a mock government from the ground up, including having a Supreme Court, an attorney general, and a governor, the highest position. But in 2022, the Missouri programs were held on the same campus. Immediately, our future female leaders can spot a difference rooted in gender. The boys get to dive into debates right away, while the girls have to learn a chant (one of the participants even says, “If the boys don’t have to do this, I’m going to be pissed”). These young women are also reminded of what clothing is and isn’t appropriate to wear, while the boys on the other side of campus can regularly take off their shirts whenever they want to.

It is exciting to see that these girls don’t want any of this double standard. They’re unhappy about all the “fluff” and just want to dive into honest conversations and debates because that’s what the week and program should be about. It’s disappointing that a program like this, meant to encourage and inspire future leaders, still has stark distinctions between boys and girls, especially when the number of women in Congress is at an all-time high. But more than just voicing her annoyances, Emily, a candidate for the governor position, goes as far as pursuing an investigative piece about the alleged disparities, which includes discovering how much more funding goes toward Boys State. Though staff members eventually changed the headline of her story – something she was not pleased about – it’s incredible to see someone so young be so unafraid to expose inequality.

As they did in “Boys State,” McBaine and Moss take time to showcase several different girls and their beliefs in the film. Emily is conservative, and though she makes it a point to say her school peers don’t know her political leanings, she’s eager to open up and ask others what side of the aisle they’re on. Cecilia believes she’s one of the more liberal people in the program because she’s from a big city and wants to hear other people’s points of view. Nisha is very passionate and worried about what the leaked Supreme Court decision on abortion would mean for women and hopes to earn a seat as a justice. There’s also Tochi, seeking the attorney general seat, who is one of few Black women in the program, and she even wonders if she’s the first Black person some of the other girls have ever spoken to.

All these viewpoints get a chance to shine as the girls discuss abortion rights and gun control, among other issues. What’s most refreshing is that they all get a seat at the table, and no one is put down for their beliefs. On the topic of abortion, in particular, these young women show that there are several stances in the pro-choice or pro-life debate. One says she is personally pro-life, but no law should be able to dictate what someone else should do with their body. When the Girls State Supreme Court has to rule on a right-to-privacy case, the conversations that take place are inspiring, especially when we consider the lack of bipartisanship communication that often takes place in our own government. Even more beautiful is hearing one girl say the case was “where it should be”: decided in front of women. Yet another piece that’s sorely lacking outside of this mock government.

“Girls State” might bounce from topic to topic more than “Boys State,” but it ends up being more relevant and timely given the state of women’s rights in America. It also shows us that these young girls are the future leaders we need. Their fight against inequality and their willingness to listen to differing opinions will take them far and hopefully help continue to build this country.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - As inspiring, if not even more so, than its predecessor, as these teenage girls recognize and stand up against the unfair treatment they see. Timely and thoughtful discussions of abortion rights. Fills you with hope that this country is in good hands.

THE BAD - Bounces around to a few different issues, which “Boys State” fans might not appreciate as much.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - Best Documentary Feature

THE FINAL SCORE - 8/10

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Ema Sasic
Ema Sasic
Journalist for The Desert Sun. Film critic and awards season enthusiast. Bosnian immigrant

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>As inspiring, if not even more so, than its predecessor, as these teenage girls recognize and stand up against the unfair treatment they see. Timely and thoughtful discussions of abortion rights. Fills you with hope that this country is in good hands.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>Bounces around to a few different issues, which “Boys State” fans might not appreciate as much.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b><a href="/oscar-predictions-best-documentary-feature/">Best Documentary Feature</a><br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>8/10<br><br>"GIRLS STATE"