Film questions image industry

Documentarian Darryl Roberts shows the ugly side of beauty

Filmmaker Darryl Roberts screens his documentary America the Beautiful in the Biosciences Complex yesterday.
Image by: Christine Blais
Filmmaker Darryl Roberts screens his documentary America the Beautiful in the Biosciences Complex yesterday.

Does America have an unhealthy obsession with beauty?

America the Beautiful, a documentary by American filmmaker Darryl Roberts, tries to answer that question by exploring American society’s fixation on physical attractiveness.

Roberts was at BioSciences Complex last night to screen his film and answer questions from the audience. About 350 people attended the screening, which was jointly organized by the student affairs office and the AMS.

Roberts said he was inspired to make the film when he co-owned a social marketing company with NBA great Michael Jordan. He said his work brought him in contact with attractive ‘groupies,’ which made him reluctant to commit to ordinary-looking women.

Roberts asked himself why beauty was so important to him, and searching for the answer to this question led him to decide to make the film.

While making America the Beautiful, Roberts said he uncovered several ugly truths about the beauty industry.

When researching television shows about cosmetic surgery such as Dr. 90210, Roberts discovered that many of the doctors had only studied plastic surgery for a single weekend. American law allows doctors to practice plastic surgery with only an MD, he said.

“The doctors on the show, they weren’t board-certified.”

Roberts said he also ran into trouble when he started looking into the use of toxic phthalates in cosmetics.

“They don’t really care what’s happening,” he said. “It’s about the money. … Capitalism is running so rampant.”

Roberts said he thinks the unhealthy obsession with beauty is getting worse. Since he began working on the documentary six years ago, Roberts said the number of people in the U.S. with eating disorders has more than doubled from six million to 14 million.

“Any way you can kind of measure this stuff, it’s just getting worse,” he said.

Citing the Italian government’s ban on too-thin models on runways during Milan Fashion Week in 2006, Roberts said he thinks the U.S. government should do the same, adding that he thinks it would improve young girls’ self-esteem to see a variety of body types depicted as beautiful.

Roberts said he thinks parents also have a responsibility to tell their children that they’re worthwhile.

“The message is that we’re all beautiful in our own way,” he said. “Each individual needs to find out what’s beautiful about them and make that their value system for beauty.”

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