As Roe v. Wade crumbled, teens organized ‘Girls State’ to simulate government. (Part-1)    

New York — A weeklong mock government camp in Missouri in the summer of 2022 saw 500 high school girls elect their own governor and appoint an all-female Supreme Court to decide on their bodies. Not everyone had the same political views or abortion views. For a few days, their voices mattered. That week, Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine filmed the sequel to their 2020 award-winning documentary “Boys State.”  

“It felt like we had gone from this sort of — not quite utopia — but this imagined, wonderful world where we had control of our bodies and we were involved in these conversations,” says Nisha Murali, one of the film's few young women. "And then it was taken away."  

Like 2020's “Boys State,” “Girls State,” which premieres Friday on Apple TV+, is an election-year documentary about coming-of-age teens and national politics.  

The programs are uniquely sensitive to American political frequencies. It's no wonder that abortion dominates that debate, adds Moss. “We knew the court would hear one case. We prayed against speed limits, which happened.” Before “Boys State” premiered, the directors considered a “sibling” film. Despite many corollaries, “Girls State” is captivating and illuminatingly different from “Boys State.”  

Boys State, administered by the American Legion since 1935, is more known and funded. (Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh participated). Mark Wahlberg is too. The 2020 Texas Boys State documentary intended to determine if former President Donald Trump's political views have influenced young males. The microcosm was captivating.  

Emily Worthmore, a Missouri teen, expected Girls State to be like that movie. Worthmore, a friendly, ambitious, conservative-leaning St. Louis suburb girl, arrived ready to argue politics. “But ours, because of the way it played out, it wasn't set up for us to have these big debates and be fighting and all that,” Worthmore adds. Instead, it was "So why is it like this?"

Worthmore and others noticed that Girls State was different from Boys State at Lindenwood University. The girls' program, supported by the American Legion Auxiliary, featured a tight dress code and fewer sports activities than the boys'. There was a camp cheer for girls but not boys. The Missouri governor attended Boys State's graduation, but not Girls.  

As in most aspects of life, the young ladies of “Girls State” pursued a goal while mindful of their limitations. "To me, one of this movie's powers is making an invisible thing baked into the structure of everything visible," adds McBaine. „I appreciate that that becomes part of the debate after watching this film.”  

The young women of “Girls State” are bonded for those or other reasons. Competition, conflict, and dispute are abundant in the picture. It has more supporting moments. One counselor tells an audience, “We all have, in our own different ways, grown up in a world where we’ve never seen a female president.”  

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