Men run television. Women watch television. What’s wrong with this picture? The documentary “Miss Representation” (8 p.m., OWN) offers a long, meandering and entirely necessary look at the depiction of women in media and the barrage of destructive messages broadcast to young girls.
It catalogs the many images of women as sexual playthings in music videos, video games, summer movies, TV shows and commercials. It uses charts and graphs to show how few women older than childbearing age are allowed on screen. Even female heroines and superheroes touted as “empowered” are little more than exaggerated objects of desire, designed by and for teenage boys of all ages.
The most powerful segments of “Miss Representation” concern the brutal treatment of women who aspire to power. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice describes the condescending coverage of her tenure. We see clips of Rush Limbaugh and other radio commentators making spectacularly rude comments about the appearance of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The film offers a harrowing recap of the 2008 race, when Hillary Clinton was brutalized for being unfeminine and Sarah Palin often was discussed only in terms of her sex appeal. It also discusses the bimbo-fication of local and cable television newscasters. Katie Couric recalls how many times the term “catfight” was applied to her network competition with Diane Sawyer.
Only at the end does the subject of women as the dominant consumers of this media come to the fore. If enough women were to say, “We don’t buy this,” media might change, one expert says. It’s interesting to note that NBC’s “The Playboy Club,” a misbegotten effort to depict bunnies as “empowered,” was the first show to be canceled this year.
• Previously exiled to Saturday nights, “Rules of Engagement” (7:30 p.m., CBS) bounces back to Thursday nights to replace “How To Be a Gentleman.”
• Proof that women aren’t the only ones depicted as dim sex objects, the dreary, boring, all-but-pornographic series “Gigolos” (10 p.m., Showtime) returns for a second season.
Tonight’s other highlights
• The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers meet in Game Two of the World Series (6:30 p.m., Fox).
• A kidnapped family needs help from “Charlie’s Angels” (7 p.m., ABC).
• A judge falls under Reese and Finch’s microscope on “Person of Interest” (8 p.m., CBS).
• Robert sets an impossible sales goal on “The Office” (8 p.m., NBC).
• A tumor appears to be beyond diagnosis on “Grey’s Anatomy” (8 p.m., ABC).
• Murder visits an island of misfits on “The Mentalist” (9 p.m., CBS).
• Jane assists Duffy on “Prime Suspect” (9 p.m., NBC).
• Cooper’s past resurfaces on “Private Practice” (9 p.m., ABC).
• A looming storm sends the city into scavenging mode on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (9 p.m., FX).