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Girls State

DOCUMENTARY | Abortion and Dobbs loom large in film that shows high school girls learning and debating politics

Apple TV+

<em>Girls State</em>
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Rated NR
Apple TV+

BOYS STATE and Girls State are leadership programs sponsored by the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary. In 2020, documentarians Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss gave viewers an inside look with Boys State, a film about high school boys in Texas who get hands-on experience with the democratic process. Released in the midst of election season, the documentary depicted our contentious politics in microcosm. Now, just in time for another election, McBaine and Moss are back with Girls State, focusing on the female perspective.

Girls State follows Missouri high school girls during their weeklong experiment with democracy. All the subjects are go-getters, but they bring disparate backgrounds, personalities, and political preferences to the program. The film’s main subject is a politically conservative Christian girl who senses her pro-life convictions are in the minority.

The Dobbs decision that reversed Roe v. Wade looms large over the documentary, and much of the conversation about abortion will disappoint thoughtful viewers. The pro-life girls have trouble speaking with conviction, and the pro-choice girls merely regurgitate shallow talking points from social media.

This lack of political depth could lead some to despair over the next generation, but Girls State has its hopeful elements as well. One participant questions whether rah-rah female empowerment slogans help or hurt young women. Some girls find their voices through failure, rather than success. And people with polar-opposite political views learn that honest and open conversations can build respect, allowing us to see each other as fellow human beings.

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



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