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America the Beautiful (Collector’s Edition) cover photo

America the Beautiful (Collector’s Edition) 2009


Distributed by The Video Project, PO Box 411376, San Francisco, CA 94141-1376; 800-475-2638
Produced by Darryl Roberts
Directed by Darryl Roberts
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - Adult
Adolescence, American Studies, Gender Studies, Journalism, Media Studies, Popular Culture, Psychology, Sociology, Women's Studies

Date Entered: 07/08/2010

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

In 2003, when Chicago filmmaker Darryl Roberts began asking women about appearance, he was surprised to discover the intensity of feeling his questions elicited. In a media-driven consumer society that is saturated with advertisements and other visual messages promoting physical perfection, looks and attractiveness have a high value as well as a high cost. Roberts’ feature-length documentary explores the depth and breadth of America’s obsessive fixation with body image and the cult of beauty. At the center of the film is the story of Gerren Taylor, a young 12-year old California girl who rockets to the top of the modeling world in 2004. Interspersed throughout the film are also numerous interviews with both the perpetrators and victims of our beauty-involved culture, as well as educators, eating disorder experts, government officials, advocates and activists.

Bonus features in the Collector’s Edition contain deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer and several extended interviews with some of the film’s more vocal subjects, including Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues playwright, whose one-sentence comment on male anatomy is the source of the film’s R rating. An edited PG-13 edition of the film is also available.

The fast-paced, straightforward, slightly ingenuous documentary is in the populist style of Roger Moore, without being overtly confrontational or preachy. While the subject matter, the questions asked and the answers given are certainly not new ones, Roberts’ treatment of the causes and consequences of America’s infatuation with physical appearance is both accessible and revealing.