America the Beautiful

The biggest tragedy of this award-winning 2007 movie, is that no one will see it! Right now it is slipping into general release in some movie houses, and I wish it lotsa luck! It never lags, is entertaining, involving and informational.

Darryl Roberts, the producer and director, is a man with a mellifluous voice and great intentions, who has crafted a wonderful documentary about the concept of "beauty" in America. I can't think of any aspect of it that was overlooked. We are treated to an up-close and personal look at plastic surgery, liposuction, anorexia, the fashion industry, the advertising (airbrushing!) industry, the cosmetics industry, the food industry, the exploitation and sexualization of child models and even cosmetic surgery for dogs!

He interviews young men and explores their attitudes about the issues that surround women: their fashions, their body weight and their sex appeal. (The guys don't come off very well...)

The central focus is on a terrific 12-year-old girl who was discovered by a talent agent. She was six feet tall, she was eager to excel, she instantly mastered her runway walk, and she had a mother who was a frustrated model. Needless to say, she was an immediate hit in Los Angeles, then the next year went to The Big Apple and was the flavor-of-the-month there. By the following season, she was no longer a fad in New York, so she went to Europe where she landed two gigs then was told that she was "too fat." As a result, by age 16 she was a has-been, went back to high school and took up basketball. At no time, not even by the wildest stretch of the imagination, could she ever be construed as "fat."

This documentary makes many, many interesting claims: Lethal ingredients in American cosmetics are concealed as "trade secrets" and don't have to be disclosed; this is accepted by the FDA. Many cosmetic "surgeons" are NOT licensed, consequently there is no recourse in the event of death or disfigurement. Medical examiners refuse to show anorexia as a cause of death, thereby concealing that statistic from official documents. As an aside, I found it remarkable how many dogs have had sagging lips fixed, drooping eyelids trimmed, even missing "equipment" restored after males are neutered (they use silicone pebbles).

This is an exposé, NOT a diatribe. There is wry humor throughout, and we are treated to fascinating interviews with women in education, the media and the entertainment world. One of the playwrights talks about a woman in Africa who was puzzled when she was asked if she liked her own body. She very emphatically DID. Then she asked the American woman if she liked "that tree over there? ...and that other tree over THERE?" When the playwright said she liked both trees, the African woman asked if the one tree envied the other because its shape was different. She was telling the American that dwelling on different shapes was ridiculous.

There were interviews with high-school age students who seem to understand the problem, but also feel helpless to fix it because of the mind-boggling amounts of money involved.

If this is re-run on television, please watch it.