In ‘Girls State,’ Missouri adolescents form a pretend government.    

What would an all-female U.S. administration look like? How about a majority female government? Still a fantasy. However, a new documentary on Apple TV+ Friday can allow eager high school Girls State pupils a week to play at it.  

After a historic and embarrassing prank in which their predecessors voted to secede from the U.S., documentary filmmakers Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss visited Boys State camp in Texas six years ago. The filmmakers were already planning a girls' program follow-up when they finished.  

In “Girls State,” they move from Texas to Missouri and give voice to numerous midwestern adolescents during a week when a draft of the Supreme Court's decision to overrule Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nationwide, leaks to the press. Even at one lunch table, young women at the program have many opinions on this issue. One girl is pro-choice, but even opponents disagree on the government's role.  

In another moment, two girls discuss gun rights. One advocates defending a constitutional right, arming teachers, and keeping a bedside automatic rifle in case an armed attacker breaks into her home at night. The other wonders if that's the biggest home threat. They eventually agree to disagree. These chats may not change minds, but everyone seems delighted to be heard (and sometimes to hear others).  

McBaine and Moss work hard to discover diverse primary characters. The St. Louis city girl thinks she's the most liberal. Previously loyal to her family, the rehabilitated conservative now disagrees. A moderate conservative values bipartisanship. A Black girl wonders if she's the first Black person others have seen. She reports minimal microaggressions. She becomes attorney general while the others seek for governor.  

Perhaps the most intriguing development is how camp talk about Boys State, conducted on the same campus for the first time, becomes a movement. Rumors of more financing and less fluff for boys depress the girls. They also squirm when they are chastised for wearing too-revealing shorts and shirts and wonder if the boys are being lectured similarly. One girl investigates rumored disparities after the election.  

Like “Boys State,” this video shows an interesting slice of American teens. The group of kids who spend a week of their summer vacation developing a pretend government is restricted and self-selected. When they vote and enter the workforce in four or eight years, will they still care about politics and policy and want to change it? Let's hope so for democracy—these youngsters are amazing.  

The Motion Picture Association has not rated “Girls State,” which will air Friday on Apple TV+. It should be suitable for most viewers. Runtime: 98 minutes. Three stars out of four.  

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