America the Beautiful

  • Review Date: September 12, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Probing docu about society's obsession with looks.
  • Review Date: September 12, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film shows the negative and often self-destructive behavior that can result from buying into an unrealistic notion of beauty. Race, as it pertains to skin color and beauty, is discussed. Michelle Taylor is shown as both pushy and insensitive about the negative impact that modeling has on her daughter. Fashion publishers/execs appear greedy as they discuss the money that can be made from people trying to obtain physical perfection.

Violence

Some brief-but-graphic footage of plastic surgery being performed.

Sex

Lots of images of models in skimpy clothing in magazines and on runways. Nudity (bare breasts) is blurred. Clips of music videos featuring women in sexy outfits and dancing provocatively (including Britney Spears and Madonna kissing) are shown. Teens discuss looking like "sluts" to get boys' attention. Gerren argues with her mother about wearing a padded bra to school.

Language

Occasional swearing includes "f--k," "s--t," "dick," and "a--hole."

Consumerism

Includes brief interviews with celebrities like Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, and Martin Short. Fashion logos for Marc Jacobs, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, Richard Tyler , etc. and brand names like L'oreal, Dove, Sally Hansen, and others are also visible.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Alcoholic beverages (wine, cocktails) are visible in one scene.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary -- which examines many Americans' unhealthy fixation with physical beauty -- looks at how the fashion and entertainment industries perpetuate an unrealistic image of female perfection that can lead to low self-esteem, eating disorders, and other problems. There's a bit of strong language (including "f--k" and "s--t") and some crude sexual references; women (mostly models) are seen in skimpy clothing (but any nudity is blurred). Commercial logos and designer labels are prominent, but they're appropriate within the film's context. Brief scenes of surgical procedures may be disturbing to younger or more sensitive viewers. Parents, this is a good movie to watch alongside your teen; check out some of our tips about how to talk to them about the issues the movie deals with.

Parents say

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What's the story?

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL explores our country's obsession with appearance. Written, produced, and directed by Darryl Roberts, the film begins with 12-year-old Gerren Taylor, who in 2003 was a rising superstar in the modeling world. As the film follows the ups and downs of her fashion career over several years, it highlights the contradictory messages about physical beauty that people of all ages are forced to make sense of every day thanks to a constant barrage of media images. It also explores various issues relating to how people attempt to meet unrealistic expectations of physical beauty, including diminishing self-esteem among young girls, discrimination, eating disorders, and cosmetic surgery.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

As fashion execs, tabloid journalists, advertisers, and plastic surgeons discuss how and why they contribute to this unattainable standard of beauty, America the Beautiful proves to be both witty and troubling. Men make candid (and sometimes crude) observations about how important a woman's physical attributes -- like weight, height, and skin color -- are when they think about their ideal mate, but then can't explain why they feel the way they do. There are some heartbreaking moments, too, as the film documents the real devastation that can occur when people buy into the idea of looking "perfect" -- including becoming the victim of botched cosmetic surgery or dying from bulimia.

This documentary, which took five years to complete, doesn't take an unbiased approach to its subject. And most of Roberts' findings aren't particularly surprising, either. But the film is both socially probing and entertaining as it shows how far women have come in American society -- only to still be objectified by idealized standards of beauty that often hold them back. The movie also demonstrates how both men and women are becoming less able to appreciate the ordinary and how incapable they are becoming of finding the true beauty that lies inside them.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether the media creates and/or perpetuates an idealized -- and unattainable -- standard of beauty. Do advertisements, music videos, and fashion magazines create these images, or do they simply reflect what people want to see? Do you think the media can cause someone to develop a negative body image or eating disorder? Why or why not? Families can also discuss modeling. How young is too young to start a modeling career? How are young models portrayed in advertisements and other kinds of media? How do you think that affects them?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 1, 2008
DVD release date:December 1, 2009
Cast:Darryl Roberts, Gellen Taylor, Michelle Taylor
Director:Darryl Roberts
Studio:Sensory Overload Productions
Genre:Documentary
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some language, including sexual references.

This review of America the Beautiful was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Educator and Parent Written byjbaum62406 August 1, 2011
AGE
17
QUALITY
 

My Two-Sense

Its really good but its missing the message of how God, the One who created us, sees us... The inappropriateness in the film is brief throughout (although, the plastic surgery scenes are harsh) they show how serious media affects everyone. Most seems reasonable within the context of the documentary. I wont be allowing my 9 year old to watch it until I feel hes of mental maturity and even then, I will most likely show something more Christian based.

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