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The Power of the Media


As part of Phenomenal Women’s Week, Wilkinson Public Library and San Miguel Resource Center are partnering with local high-school students to present a mind-blowing documentary called America the Beautiful, which takes an in-depth look at our cultural preoccupation with unrealistic standards of beauty. This important film traces several intertwined narratives to present a powerful image of the power that technology and the media exert on our cultural values. A discussion will follow the screening.

The United States of America is known for being one of the wealthiest nations with the most opportunities for its citizens. In 2004 alone, Americans spent $12.4 billion on cosmetic surgery. With such an abundance of wealth, why are Americans so discontent?Too much television and easy access to plastic surgery are conventional answers, but they do not fully explain this national psychosis. These same images are found all over Europe and Canada, yet their citizens do not have this same obsession. In almost 40,000 media messages a year, youthful Americas are being told that, unless you look like supermodels and rock stars, you’re not good enough for anyone to love. This is a message that too many people are buying.

The hope of achieving these ‘ideals’ has consumers purchasing cosmetics, toiletries, fashion and plastic surgeries at increasingly dramatic rates. Has the "American Dream" changed so much that it can only be achieved once we can perfectly emulate the super thin and sexy images of Britney Spears or other pop icons?

Filmmaker Darryl Roberts goes on a two-year journey to examine America’s new obsession: physical perfection. In America the Beautiful, we learn secrets, confessions and strikingly harsh realities as Roberts unearths the origins and deadly risks of our nation’s quest for physical perfection. In this film, we see how these increasingly unattainable images contribute greatly to the rise in low self-esteem, body dismorphia and eating disorders for young women and girls who also happen to be the beauty industry’s largest consumers. Who actually benefits from this high-priced journey towards this ideal? Is corporate America’s bottom line so important that it justifies a nation’s psychosis? What are the true costs of our obsession with youth, beauty, and a slender physique? 

At the heart of America the Beautiful is the story of Gerren Taylor, a teenager who went from being an innocent 12-year-old girl to being one of America’s next top supermodels. As she and her mother head down the windy road to stardom, viewers watch the dichotomy between Gerren’s adolescent struggles and her adult rights of passage on the catwalks of Marc Jacobs, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger and other top designers. Her tumultuous quest acts as a mirror to the American psyche, and it becomes apparent how the same beauty that could jump-start her career could ultimately destroy her young life. 

To find out what has America’s pre-teens standing in line for their turn on I Want a Famous Face and its adults on Extreme Makeover, Roberts dives deep into America’s culture of fear, consumption, and idolatry for all things external; he seeks answers from celebrities, media, academia, as well as everyday Americans. Follow Roberts as he asks Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, Aisha Tyler, Anthony Kedis, Tisha Campbell, Julianne Moore, Michael Beach, Mena Suvari, Martin Short, as well as Ted Casablanca from the E! Channel and Susan Schulz, the Editor-in-Chief of CosmoGirl!, along with various other celebrities and experts in cosmetics, fashion, media, and self-esteem the major question at hand: Does America have an unhealthy obsession with beauty?