A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Girl Model is a documentary that chronicles the slightly seedy underbelly of the international fashion model industry. Beautiful Siberian girls are shown desperately trying to impress a modeling scout to score a contract to Japan. There's no objectionable language (and half of the film is subtitled), but there are definitely sexual overtones to why and how the 12- and 13-year-old models are selected and how older models who don't succeed turn to high-end prostitution to earn money. A couple of scenes show the young models sobbing and homesick while on the phone with their parents, and the modeling execs all come off as slightly sleazy and exploitative. But for any older tween or teen girl interested in modeling, it's an eye-opening view at how the business can be far uglier than the beautiful pictures imply.
What's the story?
The rarefied world of international fashion modeling is exposed in GIRL MODELS, which follows Ashley, an American modeling scout who's sent to Siberia to find the "right" kind of 13-year-old girls to model in Tokyo. The filmmakers juxtapose the life of jaded Ashley with the hopeful-turned-melancholy journey of young Nadya, a 13-year-old who leaves her the Siberian countryside for Tokyo, where she only communicates with other Russian models, whose every choice is seemingly dictated by the iron-clad contract they've signed. After three months, Nadya could return to Siberia with a much-needed $8,000 or go home completely in debt, and she's not in control of either outcome.
Is it any good?
From the opening scene, in which dozens of barely dressed girls parade in front of Ashley, Girl Model is a difficult documentary to watch. It's cringe-inducing to see how these beautiful girls -- every one of them -- are picked apart for perceived imperfections. Every person involved in the modeling industry in this movie comes across as a collaborator or perpetrator of a corrupt, soul-sucking enterprise that damages the young women involved in it. As Nadya attempts to enjoy her experience, there's really little to call home about except for unending homesickness and literal hunger.
Ashley's candor, therefore, isn't just surprising but refreshing. She's not doing anything of substance, and she knows it. The industry is built on "nothing," she says, and is dictated by the aesthetic whims of a few arbiters of what's considered fashionable or beautiful. She's cynical, and for good reason: The girls she scouts for her Tokyo agency leave their families (and in some cases their innocence) in search of fame -- or at least a steady income -- that could never materialize. They can be sent packing for gaining as little as one centimeter at a time when their bodies are supposed to be developing. Eye-opening for any older girl curious about the potential pitfalls of modeling, this is a frank depiction of a frightening industry.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Girl Model's message about the modeling industry. What don't you see when you look at a beautiful girl's photo in a magazine?
Discuss body image issues with your kids. What does it say about modeling when some of the bikini-clad girls are called "too fat" or the scout says certain countries want to see only super skinny, super young girls?
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