America, the Beauty-Obsessed

Men making a movie about beauty? Uh oh! Is it another movie about “hot chicks,” unnaturally thin waifs and women who are Botoxed, waxed, liposucked, sculpted and styled to within an inch of their lives (or just airbrushed and Photoshopped to look that way)? Nope! America the Beautiful is about beauty, but it’s a movie made by men in support of women. Filmmaker Darryl Roberts has created this documentary to bring attention to our obsession with perceptions of beauty in the U.S., and the impact such an obsession has on everyone.

Thanks to images of beauty promoted through a plethora of avenues, from celebs to advertisers to media to modeling to plastic and cosmetic surgeons, to sometimes even our own parents, our perceptions of what’s beautiful, and what makes an acceptable model, celebrity, woman, mate, person, beauty regime, etc., have evolved into something strange, toxic and sometimes shocking, and it’s influencing our children at younger and younger ages.

As part of the film, Roberts interviews a variety of media, entertainment and social professionals, from Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, to feminist playwright Eve Ensler to former Seventeen editor Atoosa Rubenstein. Much of the film focuses on the experiences of Gerren Taylor, who was discovered as a model at 12, became wildly successful, and then was dumped a couple years later because she no longer fit the modeling industry’s definition of perfection.

The film reveals a variety of sad and horrific realities, such as:

  • A 1990s study of the effects of television on the native people of Fiji showed that, before the arrival of TV, no girls were bulimic or anorexic; three years after TV arrived in Fiji, 11 percent of girls admitted to throwing up to control their weight.
  • The cocktail waitress who was fired from her job for not wearing makeup.
  • Magazine industry reps who state that putting “average” people on the cover isn’t an option because it would cost them money.
  • The 6 foot tall, 130 pound model who’s told she has to lose 15 pounds.

You can see the trailer on the website.

America the Beautiful has only recently been released in theaters and is making its way around the country. (NOTE: This movie is coming to Portland to the Regal Fox Tower Stadium 10 theater the weekend of September 5.)

Although the film is rated R (some strong language and shots of cosmetic surgery), it provides a great opportunity to explore and discuss issues of beauty, marketing and advertising, body image and more, especially with teenagers and pre-teens.

Find out more:

Roberts writes about his experiences in a Huffington Post article.

A recent article about the film from the Long Beach, CA, Press-Telegram.

~ Marsha