Toe-the-line feminists and white patriarchal media magnates alike receive a good-natured thrashing in Where The Girls Are, Susan J. Douglas’ exploration of the schizophrenic treatment of women in the media from the 1950’s to the present. The book is a little less harsh than an average analysis of the media. Douglas neither portrays the media as a big bad wolf (as Susan Faludi did in Backlash), nor indulges Baby Boomers’ nostalgia with a rose-colored trip to way back when. Her main goal in this exploration was to discover the simultaneous enlargement and infantilization of women in the media—which, she posits, result in many a woman’s desire to throw up and put up with magazines such as Cosmopolitan, movies like Beach Blanket Bingo, and the TV shows Dallas and Charlie’s Angels. 

            Douglas’ theory is simple: “The point here is that we love and hate the media, at exactly the same time, in no small part because the media, simultaneously, love and hate women.” In her opening section, Douglas maps out the basics of this frustrating dynamic:

                       

“Women are angry at the media, because a full twenty years after the women’s movement, diet soda companies, women’s magazines, and the Sport’s Illustrated “swimsuit issue” still bombard us with smiling, air-brushed, anorexic, and compliant women whose message seems to be “Shut up, get a face-lift, and stop eating.” But . . . if we are honest, we have to admit that we have loved the media as much as we have hated them . . . After all [they] did give us The Four Tops, Bette Midler, The Avengers, Aretha Franklin, Saturday Night Live, Johnny Carson, and Cagney & Lacey”.

 

            All questions of taste aside, Douglas’ point goes beyond arguing that the media, in regards to women, has some wheat in with the chaff. Rather, Douglas asserts that because the media functioned as a sort of über-parent to Americans born after WWII, this resulted, for women, in a fracturing of the self—a funhouse-style mirror of the media’s own conflicts about women.