Most of America's successful models are pencil thin and for ads in magazines and posters, their faces and bodies are touched up so they look perfect. Sadly, millions of girls and young women measure themselves against this impossible standard of beauty and come up short. They buy cosmetics and the latest fashionable clothes but consider themselves ugly or unattractive compared to the models. Perhaps that lies behind the startling statistic that in 2004 alone, Americans spent $12.4 billion on cosmetic surgery. Mothers are now putting children as young as five on diets or sending them to fat farms during the summer.
These are some of the statistics, facts, and trends reported by Darryl Roberts during his two-year odyssey exploring America's obsession with physical perfection. A large section of this documentary focuses on Gerren Taylor, who went from being an innocent 12 year old to a top model on the catwalks of Marc Jacobs, DKNY, Tommy Hilfiger, and other top designers. Her meteoric rise and fall reveals the insanity of the ideal of what passes for beauty in the fashion industry.
Other segments deal with the standards of physical perfection conveyed by the 40,000 media messages that say young Americans should look like celebrities in the entertainment world; botched jobs done by inexperienced plastic surgeons (many of whom have no training other than a weekend course practicing on a tomato); the fact that while Europe has banned approximately 450 hazardous chemicals in cosmetics, less than 20 have been banned in the United States; and the sad deaths of young girls who starve themselves to death while trying to be really thin.
Roberts has said of his film: "What good is a nation where everybody runs around feeling bad about themselves? That can't be great. And when we think about women specifically, they're the cradles of civilization. If women are the ones that are birthing us, bringing life to us all, what benefit can there be for us to make them feel bad? I think society would be a better place if people were healthier emotionally. That's what I am trying to accomplish through the lens of beauty culture because I do believe that if you feel beautiful and attractive, it affects your self-esteem and self-worth and it makes you feel better about yourself, so that's what I am trying to do."