Documentary: “America the Beautiful”

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As I was surfing the internet last week, I came across reviews for an award-winning, 2007 documentary called “America the Beautiful”, written and directed by Darryl Roberts.  I watched it this morning on Hulu.  You can watch it too by clicking  on the link below: 

America the Beautiful on Hulu

At the start of the movie, Mr. Roberts shares that he didn’t marry a woman that he loved because he felt that there might be a more perfect woman out there for him.  His curiosity about why he might feel that way inspired this movie project.  I was immediately hooked.  Through interviews with a wide variety of people, he explores how the media has shaped our concept of physical beauty and how most of us don’t believe that we measure up.

The media does play a tremendous role in shaping how others define beauty and how we think about ourselves.  Although this movie provided me with much food for thought, here are three big ideas that stuck with me:

Do you remember that big Dove soap advertising campaign that was launch a few years ago?  The one that promoted “real women” in its ads?  Well, here is a video clip of a photoshoot for a billboard advertisement for make-up.  She does start out as a real woman, but is transformed by make-up, lighting, and Photoshop. What we see in magazines and advertisements is very far from real. 

If this is a “real woman”, then how can I ever measure up?   Media like this not only affects my own self-esteem, but also sets the standard for how all of us regular folk are viewed in society.

Another interesting bit of information confirms that societal views about beauty and body type does have a strong impact on our self-image.   Dr. Ann Becker, a researcher from Harvard Medical School, studied how TV altered girls body image on the island of Fiji.  Before TV was introduced on the island of Fiji, fat was in and thin was out for women and men.  A round and robust body was a sign of a community’s wealth because it could afford to feed its residents well.   Dr. Becker’s study showed that in just three years after the introduction of television in 1995, teen girls in Fiji who watched TV were 50% more likely to describe themselves as “too big” or fat.  Before TV was introduced, dieting was very uncommon.   After just three years of TV, 69% of Fiji’s teen girls admitted to being on a diet at some time.

Click here to read more about the Fiji study in the New York Times

If the media can have this much impact on how teen girls feel about their bodies in just three years, I’m appreciating how much I’ve been effected during the last 52 years of my own life.   It’s no wonder that I struggle with feeling good about my body!

The biggest gift I got from this film was from a story told by Eve Ensler, the playwright who authored the Vagina Monologues.  She tells it best in this clip from the movie:

I want to love my tree with that kind of enthusiasm!

I’m eagerly anticpating the sequel “America the Beautiful 2:  The Thin Commandments” which premieres in October.  I’m hoping that it eventually comes to Cleveland.  Here is the trailer:

Love your tree!

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