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  • Jennifer Green

Review: "Girls State"

This is a nuanced documentary that doesn't spoon-feed its ideas but gets them across clearly and via an emotionally appealing package.

Girls State focuses on several attendees of the Missouri conference, providing just enough backstory to appreciate their individual lives and perspectives. The teenage girls -- who are all open and thoughtful -- make friends and learn about the world and themselves, all while solidifying their own political ideas and self-images in front of the camera.

In one scene, they debate political ideas and the merits of the conference while braiding each other's hair. It's a kinder, friendlier political landscape than is often seen in "grown-up" politics.

Two teens, fresh off disappointing election losses, pivot admirably to other meaningful activities, with one reporting a story that questions the inequalities between Boys and Girls State programs.

These differences between the programs soon become a theme. While the program supports girls coming together to talk politics, learn about democracy first-hand, and combat sexism by considering future careers in government or law, there appears to be a level of sexism in the program's very structure -- the directors' previous work Boys State offers clues too.

Indeed, the article the young reporter writes runs with an edited headline that downplays these differences, and it's easy to understand her disappointment and, yes, disempowerment. This is one of several places where criticism of the Girls State organization is implied, though it's unclear as to whether the filmmakers gave the organizers an opportunity to speak to this.

What is for certain is the energy and curiosity displayed by the teenage girls, who show a real desire to go out and change the world. You wouldn't bet against them.


Read the full review at CommonSenseMedia

Images courtesy of Apple TV+


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