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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Sexy Baby's core message is that we should all think long and hard about the way that the media -- particularly in the digital age -- impacts both male ad female perceptions of women's sexuality and what makes someone "sexy." It encourages critical thinking and standing up to existing stereotypes and assumptions. Some characters embody this message more strongly than others, but the ultimate take-away is that it's extremely important to consider where expectations come from and put them in perspective.
Positive Role Models
The three main characters -- 12-year-old Winnifred, 22-year-old Laura, and 32-year-old Nichole -- are all complex people with strengths and weaknesses. Winnifred often seems wise beyond her years when she considers the role that Facebook and the media play in her self image, but she also acts out and pushes limits. Nichole isn't apologetic about her porn star past but is looking forward to a different future with her husband; she's very aware of how media impacts people's perceptions about sex and women. Laura, who's convinced that labiaplasty will make her more confident and improve her sex life, seems the least aware of how and why her decisions are a result of media pressures. Winnifred's parents, Jeni and Ken, are active, involved parents who love their daughter and encourage her independence while simultaneously urging her to be smart and thoughtful about what she does and how she presents herself.
Violence & Scariness
A few arguments/disagreements.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex and the concept of sexiness permeate the movie from beginning to end. Parts of Nichole's pole dancing performance are seen (including shots of her in a thong, removing her bra top to reveal pasties underneath); she also teaches pole dancing lessons and discusses, with her husband (also involved in the industry), how porn has changed over the years. Discussions with Laura's surgeon include textbook-like images of female reproductive anatomy. Scenes from the surgery are included; Laura is also shown sitting on the toilet (in pain) afterward. Many images are shown throughout the movie as examples of how women and girls are sexualized in the digital age, including underwear-clad models and celebrities, naked/nearly naked models, porn movie covers/posters and magazines, clips from racy music videos, and many more. Montages show same-sex and opposite-sex kissing, gyrating dancers/musicians, and lots of generally risque behavior and dress. Winnifred photocopies her butt ("like Britney Spears"), makes a reference to oral sex (though she claims not to know what it means), and talks about wanting to hook up with someone. One of her friends describes an incident in which a guy she hooked up with posted a racy photo of her online, and Winnifried and a friend look up sex info (textbook-like images included) on an informational site called Scarleteen; they discuss what they read about. Later they do a photo shoot in which they act/dress provocatively; the implications of the photos are discussed by Winnifred and her parents. Winnifred is ogled by older men; she and her dad discuss her clothing choices.
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"S--t" and "f--k" are bleeped the handful of times they're used, except in song lyrics heard during a club scene and accompanying the end credits; words like "bitch," and "muthaf--a" are seen briefly in images. Also spoken are "damn," "hell," "bitch," "ass," "whore," "slutty," "crap," "pissed," "vagina" (and other body parts), and "oh my God." A photo shows a person with a raised middle finger.
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Products & Purchases
Brands/labels seen in characters' homes/lives include Corona beer, Hunt's ketchup, America's Got Talent, Facebook, Apple (computers, iPhones), Schweppe's, Pillsbury, and lots of billboards in Times Square.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adult characters occasionally drink beer and wine; some scenes are filmed inside bars/clubs. Images include smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sexy Baby is a documentary that turns a critical eye on how the media -- particularly the wide availability of porn/racy content via digital and social media -- has impacted women's and girls' self image and concept of "sexiness." It looks at the issue through the experiences of three different characters: a precocious 12-year-old girl living in New York City who spends tons of time on Facebook, a 22-year-old kindergarten teacher from North Carolina who decides to get labiaplasty surgery so that her genitals will look more like what men see in adult films, and a 32-year-old exotic dancer/former porn star who's ready for the next phase of her life. This is edgy stuff, but it's excellent watch-together fare for teens (both boys and girls) and their parents and will hopefully jump-start important conversations. Expect lots of risque, sexualized images in montages, from gyrating dancers to same-sex kisses to glimpses of porn movie posters/boxes. There are also textbook-like illustrations of female reproductive anatomy and scenes from the labiaplasty. The strongest language ("f--k," "s--t") is bleeped, but words like "bitch," "ass," and "hell" are audible. Note: This review is of the 58-minute educational version of the movie (which Common Sense Media consulted on during the editing process); the longer theatrical/DVD cut includes far more graphic images and language. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Sexy Baby doesn't have a magic solution for dealing with the way that digital media influences how girls and women perceive themselves, but it has an important mission. By opening viewers' eyes to the fact that digital media does have an influence -- every day, and in powerful ways -- it raises awareness and will hopefully prompt necessary discussions between teens (both boys and girls) and their peers and parents. Winnifred, in particular, is likely to resonate with teen viewers -- her thoughts on everything from Facebook to Lady Gaga are both relatable and insightful.
Nichole's experiences and perspectives are also likely to have a strong impact on teens, especially those who have seen porn; she puts a very realistic, sympathetic face on an industry that many aren't likely to have given much thought to. She's also very aware of the media's role in shaping expectations around sex. Far less aware is Laura, who doesn't seem bothered by the fact that her self esteem is directly dependent on insecurities that arose after hearing porn-watching guys talk about how unattractive non-standard genitals are. But the fact that her surgery doesn't help her find true love/happiness overnight may be enough of a message to teens. As long as they come away from Sexy Baby thinking more critically about the role that media plays in their own life and their own self esteem, then the film has done its job.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.