White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch
Clothing brand bares all about exclusionary past; language.
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White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch is a documentary about the retailer's discriminatory and marketing practices during the 1990s and 2000s. Images and discussions include nudity, objectification of young men and women, beer bottles, guns, bullying, deceased convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and reported sexual assault allegations against photographer Bruce Weber, which have been denied. Slurs include the "N" word, "butch," and "dyke." Swear words include "a--hole," "bulls--t," "f--ked up," "hell," "s--t," and "t-ts. There are references to being stoned and intoxicated. Positive messages include diversity, equity, inclusion, and bringing about change.
A&F being held to a hypocritical standard meant to destroy their brand and appeal.
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What's the Story?
When Abercrombie & Fitch began in 1892, it was known as an outdoorsman Americana brand that reportedly catered to elite sportsmen such as U.S President Theodore Roosevelt and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway, according to WHITE HOT: THE RISE & FALL OF ABERCROMBIE & FITCH. Flash forward to a century later, and the company is reimagined by its then CEO Mike Jeffries. It will now become a seller of sexy, cool clothes for teens and younger adults. But the business model backfires when accusations are made that include A&F not being an inclusive outfit, individuals being hired based on their physical attractiveness, and the unavailability of larger-sized clothing for purchase by customers. Across-the-board action is taken to bring about significant changes and transparency to the A&F brand during the 21st century.
Is It Any Good?
With this film's ensemble of rich firsthand interviews and archival context, viewers will be justly rewarded with a fair and balanced look back at a once iconic fashion brand. "What Abercrombie did was create this middle ground between sex that Calvin Klein was selling, and all-American preppiness that Ralph Lauren was selling," says Robin Givhan, critic-at-large for the Washington Post in White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch. The experience created multiple impacts on a generation, such as Sapna Maheshwari, now a business reporter at the New York Times. "At least at my high school," recalls Maheshwari, "there were girls who cut guys out from the bags and hanged up those pictures in their lockers."
But notes Dr. Anthony Ocampo, PhD, and a former A&F store employee, the chapter was a less pleasant one. "What do you tell your kid, when someone says that we can't hire you because of who you are?" proclaims Ocampo. "My hope is that companies realize that they play a pivotal role in shaping culture, shaping conversations, shaping which people in the society are valued." It's also a worthy sentiment stylishly shared by the film's prolific director Alison Klayman (Take Your Pills).
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the teamwork by the cast in White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch. How do they also demonstrate communication and courage? Why are these important character strengths?
How do former A&F employers show perseverance? Are their actions justified? Why, or why not?
Why is sex appeal an important factor in A&F's fashion culture? What is meant by the marketing phrase "sex sells"?
What is body positivity and body neutrality? In what ways are they different?
- On DVD or streaming: April 19, 2022
- Cast: Robin Givhan, Sapna Maheshwari, Anthony Ocampo
- Director: Alison Klayman
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Documentary
- Topics: Activism, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models
- Character Strengths: Communication, Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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