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Bionic Beauty Salon cover photo

Bionic Beauty Salon 1999


Distributed by Distributed by New Day Films,190 Route 17M, P.O. Box 1084, Harriman, NY 10926; 888-367-9154 or 845-774-7051
Produced by Produced by Gretchen Stoeltje
Directed by Directed by Gretchen Stoeltje
VHS, color, 88 min.

High School - Adult
Japan, Popular Culture, Music Trade, Singers

Date Entered: 11/09/2018

ALA Notable:
Reviewed by: Reviewed by Adrienne Furness, Alfred C. O'Connell Library, Genesee Community College, Batavia, NY Copyright 2000. All Rights Reserved. Distributors may use select segments for promotional purposes with full credit given to the author of the review and

This film alternates between three different modes. In one, six intelligent and articulate middle school girls talk about beauty, power, and being female. In a second, the filmmaker explores different "looks" while conversing with a perfectly made-up mouth in a compact mirror. A third explores television's Bionic Woman and the Bionic Beauty Salon, a toy sold to girls in the 1970s. These three modes meld to create a picture of what it means to be beautiful and a woman in today's society.

The young women's testimonials are the highlight of this film. All just at the beginning of adolescence, they can look at both the more innocent preadolescent years and see what will meet them as they move into high school and beyond. One girl says, "I want to be that girl who can do everything." Another observes, "I think there is a little bit of a double message being set up between love your body but it should be perfect." In one segment, the images shown while the girls talk about their views on plastic surgery and liposuction are enough to turn one's stomach, as they were no doubt intended to do. These interviews reveal a great deal about the pressures put on young women in our society. The extent to which these girls, who seem to have so much going for them, have considered and thought about beauty and issues such as whether or not they would have liposuction is startling. On the one hand, this is something all women know is on young women's minds, but it is another thing to hear them talking about it so openly.

The segments on the Bionic Woman are also interesting. They include the filmmaker commenting on the Bionic Woman while showing scenes from the television show. Well selected, the film clips show a woman who is tall and slim with super powers and perfect hair. Several scenes show her being instructed to hide her powers, and, on occasion, she hides them of her own volition. It is clearly more important, even in her work, that she is beautiful than she is strong. While these are not new observations, these segments help document where women's perceptions about beauty and power originate.

The segments with the mouth in the compact mirror are the least successful in the program. On the one hand, they are interesting and make a good companion to the rest of the film. A powerful moment is when the filmmaker tells the mirror it's never satisfied and closes the compact. This simply works in the context of the rest of the film. Other scenes are a little too cute. For example, at one point, the compact talks about its "altars" while makeup displays float in the background, and it ends up sounding goofy rather than advancing the production in any way.

In spite of its few weaknesses, this is an interesting and worthwhile production. The interviews with the young women seem worth the price of admission alone, and the rest of the film provokes thought. This film would work equally well with high school and college students, and is especially useful for anyone planning to enter a career where he or she will be working with young women. Recommended.