Embrace

Movie review by
Barbara Shulgas..., Common Sense Media
Embrace Movie Poster Image
Frank body image docu advocates acceptance.
  • NR
  • 2016
  • 86 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Accept yourself as you are instead of comparing yourself to impossible beauty standards set by Photoshopped pictures of models displayed in magazines and advertising. Women aren't just ornaments to be admired.
 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Taryn wants her young daughter to be happy and healthy and to love her body, no matter what that body might look like. A woman with a hormonal disorder has a full beard and proudly calls herself "beautiful." Women talk about self-loathing brought on by self-criticism about their less-than-perfect bodies.
 

Violence

A high percentage of women in Iran have nose jobs. Many people have their looks surgically altered. A plastic surgeon examines the director's unclothed body and suggests numerous surgical "remedies" to her body "flaws." A model reports that even high-fashion models seen in magazines are Photoshopped to look more impossibly perfect, concluding that even the models don't look like their own photos. She adds that most models nearly starve themselves to maintain their thin frames, some eating cotton balls to simulate a full feeling.
 

Sex

Taryn's breasts are examined and critiqued on-screen by a plastic surgeon suggesting surgical improvements. A photographic array of vulvas is shown on-screen to demonstrate how different the same body part can look on different people, vastly broadening notions of what falls into the realm of "normal."
 

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "boob."

Consumerism

Magazines, movies, television shows, and advertising all promote a narrow version of what qualifies as female beauty to sell products.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Embrace is a frank documentary by Australian photographer Taryn Brumfitt that's inspired by her own body image and self-acceptance issues. After the birth of her third child, she posted before-and-after photos on social media. The "before" photo was of a trim and muscular bikini-ed self, taken at a bodybuilding competition. It was in contrast to the "after," showing much of her unclothed, now heavier and softer body. The pair went viral and prompted her to talk to a variety of women about the socially burdensome standards for female beauty set by fashion magazines, movies, and television. Heavy, disabled, bearded, and average-weight women talk about learning to love themselves just as they are. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "boob," and naked breasts and genitalia are shown to broaden perception regarding what is both "beautiful" and "normal." Watch with your teens; there's plenty here to generate thoughtful discussion.

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What's the story?

EMBRACE is a frank documentary by Australian photographer Taryn Brumfitt that was inspired by her own body image and self-acceptance issues. After the birth of her third child, she posted before-and-after photos on social media. The "before" photo was of her trim and muscular bikini-clad self, taken at a bodybuilding competition. It was in contrast to the "after," showing much of her unclothed, now heavier and softer body. The pair went viral and prompted many to reach out to her, which led to her recording her conversations with a variety of women, including actor Ricki Lake, about the socially burdensome standards for female beauty set by fashion magazines, movies, and television. Heavy, disabled, bearded, and average-weight women talk about learning to love themselves just as they are. Brumfitt participates in the Sydney Skinny, a naked swim in Sydney Harbor with scores of other nude swimmers, designed to celebrate body differences and acceptance. Brumfitt ends the film addressing her "darling daughter," with the hope that it will inspire her to refrain from seeing herself as "an ornament to be looked at" but instead someone who will "feel" and "contribute" and appreciate herself for her gifts and achievements rather than her appearance.

Is it any good?

This is a lovely, heartfelt film made by a mother exploring her own unforgiving self-image in the hope that her exploration will help her daughter avoid such harsh self-judgment. Director Brumfitt is a joy, an Australian national treasure, whose buoyancy and spirit could lift anyone out of the blues. Her adventurousness, empathetic interview style, and energy and enthusiasm bring out the best in her subjects, some of whom candidly describe shame and fear about not being good enough. Others share their own joy, having worked their way toward self-acceptance. Many interviewees repeat that there are so many more important things to worry about than the way we look.  It would be difficult to imagine watching Embrace and not feeling better -- about people and the world -- in general.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what parents can do to promote healthy body image. Embrace director Brumfitt considers plastic surgery to "fix" some of her post-baby body flaws but decides such an undertaking might lead her daughter to be dissatisfied with her body, too. What other things can parents do to encourage kids to embrace themselves just the way they are?

  • There was a time in history when heavyset women were considered the standard of feminine beauty. Why do you think fashions have changed to currently favor the thin? Do you think the style pendulum might swing back toward heavier bodies again? Why or why not?

  • Based on some standards of beauty, many women feel pressured to conform to certain weight, height, color, and age standards. Why do you think standards for feminine beauty as displayed in movies, TV, magazines, fashion, and advertising are so much stricter than standards for male attractiveness? Do you think that as advertisers broaden their monetizing potential they'll turn attention to male looks and impose equally impossible standards for them?  

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