Greetings again from the darkness. This is the third in filmmaker Darryl Roberts’ documentary series focusing on America’s obsession and ideals of physical beauty. His first was released in 2007 and centered on plastic surgery, while the second from 2011 explored dieting and the quest for thin. Installment number three takes on the sexualization of society, and of girls in particular.
Make no mistake; this is not one of those funny “taboo TV ad” specials. Instead, it’s a sobering look at beauty pageants for little girls, marketing methods (TV, print, retail), and the proliferation of porn into the daily lives of teenagers. The dots are connected to show how these have led to a society struggling with sexual dysfunction.
Mr. Roberts kicks this off with an introduction to what is termed, a Mental Health Crisis – specifically, the Sexualization of little girls. The models used in advertising continue to skew younger and younger, often with 11 or 12 year olds made up and posed to look “desirable”. We are informed that kids watch 25-50,000 TV commercials per year, and many of these advertisements are targeted directly to this ever-growing economic group. Disbelief accompanies our trip to rural Georgia as we meet Beauty Pageant mothers who see nothing sexual about their little girls being half-dressed on stage, performing the type of “dance” moves one would see in a hard-edged rap video. This is our first (but not last) glimpse of how clueless many parents are on this issue.
A well-known psychologist explains the harm in having “girls versus girls” in a contest to see who is chosen as the best, simply on the basis of their looks. The connecting dots then lead us to the frightening topic of teenage pregnancy, where a group of girls detail how they started having sex as young as age 14. Interviews with kids (boys and girls) make the very crucial point that abstinence and even safe sex are not frequent subjects of conversation. Brain development is scientifically proven to be a factor in the frequent “immediate gratification” decisions made by teens. More on this would have been welcome.
We meet the two interns Mr. Roberts hired to assist with this project. One of the girls, single-handedly takes on the Abercrombie & Fitch chain, after the CEO makes a statement claiming their clothes are exclusionary … basically, A&F only sells to the young and beautiful. One of the interns becomes a crusader against A&F and that leads her to become a spokesperson against teenage bullying – in its many forms.
A university professor explains how there has been a Sexuality Generation Shift, and much of it can be traced to the frequency and accessibility of online porn. This has become the educational front for kids in regards to sexual relationships. These days, girls are either “F***able or Invisible” and “Gonzo porn” never gives any indication that intimacy or feelings should play a role, and now, the dots connect to the high rate of sexual abuse and rape on college campuses.
Though I may not be a huge fan of the look and structure of the film, it’s the message that matters. Mr. Roberts offers up significant statistics throughout, and the interviews prove quite insightful … whether it be a college professor or the clueless mother supporting her wannabe teenage model (who can’t grasp the concept of consistent safe sex). The most significant takeaway is that the world of youngsters today is not just void of any of real guidance, but even worse, their introduction and education of sex is coming directly from the world of online porn. We are judged as a society on how we care for our children, and a disgusting example is provided near the film’s end as Mr. Roberts discloses that one of his interns was (at a minimum) sexually harassed by a producer during the project. It makes for an abrupt reminder that we all must take responsibility for our actions and for the protection and guidance of kids.
Thanks to sponsorship of Carolyn Costin and the Monte Nido Treatment Center, the film will be screened free of charge in a few U.S. cities, including Dallas on October 20. For more information, and to watch the trailer, go to: http://www.americathebeautifuldoc.com/