America the Beautiful Documentary: See it. Support It.

Shaping Youth’s K-5 playground documentary in development, “Body Blitz: Media, Shaping Youth” should get a big boost of media ‘umpf’ and fiscal validation with the release of the new doc, America the Beautiful opening today in L.A. (theater listings/city slate here) and next Friday in S.F., S.D., and Las Vegas!

I’ll be interviewing America the Beautiful director Darryl Roberts after their S.F. Film Society pre-screening next week, but wanted to tell all our L.A. readers pronto to pack a wallop of support into this weekend’s box office sales! —Especially since MTV recently put out a casting call for a new ‘transformational’ reality show called “Model Makers” AND, coming out Sept. 16, the premiere of The Biggest Loser FAMILY edition. Yep, kiddies on diets with mom and dad in gather-round media moments. sigh.

Shaping Youth’s ongoing research on the harmful trickle down impact among K-5 elementary kids in our appearance-obsessed culture segues nicely into Darryl Roberts’ theme on toxic body image reverb…

Judging by the ATB film trailer and Roger Ebert’s review alone, sight unseen, I’d urge all to give it a GO when it comes to your city. It’s worthwhile content regardless of execution, whether it takes on a Michael Moore muckraking lens, or an “artivists” tonality…the SUBJECT matter itself is what’s key.

Part Dove ‘Onslaught’ vibe, part human interest story of 12-year old Gerren Taylor vaulting from catwalk darling to damaged and discarded, ( like a wadded, tossed tissue from a fashion-fest sneeze—see LA Times update on Gerren, now 18, at left) the important media message merits a blaring, glaring spotlight turned on the issue in full force…

…NOT just for the way our industry treats human beings, but for the preteens and even tinier tykes increasingly caught in the casting net of shoulds, coulds and wannabes prevalent in our web celeb/pop culture zeitgeist and the toll it’s taking on their physical and emotional health.

If you’re catching a Peter Finch/Howard Beale style ‘Network’ vibe from me in “shout out from the windows frustration” you are correct-amundo.

Take a peek at our “body image” category on the sidebar.

Now repeat after me, “I’m mad as hell, and…” Well, you get the drift. As I said here before, the way marketers are “Packaging Girlhood” is making cash registers go ‘ka-ching’ and kids’ psyches go ‘ka-boom.’

There is NO question beauty-obsessed, body image-driven, early sexualization of childhood is bound to have direct links to eating disorders, low self-esteem and depression. (the entire APA report summary and ‘what parents can do’ portion is worth your perusal)

There is NO question media and marketing is complicit in fueling this fire in surround sound to glean higher profits…The question then becomes…

So what are you gonna do about it?

“The price we pay to mine kids’ childhood will ultimately cost us all.”–Amy Jussel

Yah. You can self-quote me on that. Again and again.

So, Shaping Youth readers, let’s start by giving this issue the prominence it deserves…come out in force in L.A. this weekend, and in S.F. NEXT weekend to support the film, and bring your teens too…

In fact, I’ll give the first three commenters supporting the film in their own respective cities a copy of the book Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes as a thank you for Shaping Youth in a more positive direction! (don’t miss the authors’ blog, by S.Y. advisory board members Dr. Sharon Lamb & Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown too!)

I think I might even rally some folks to start a ‘Facebook group’ to virally pop this into the minds of media colleagues and parent pals in both regions, since kids’ health and well-being are at stake here.

And though I haven’t even seen the finished film yet, (I’m bringing some board members next week!) from the disordered, dysfunctional direction our pop culture incessantly embeds into cues for kids, I can emphatically say: Darryl…We’re with you all the way…

Heartfelt thanks for giving voice to a vision we’ve been working on for several years here with Body Blitz: Media, Shaping Youth. (see our mini-Animoto trailer we recently created for a preteen talk at Lucile Packard Children’s Health Foundation and Kaiser Permanente)

See you all next week at the S.F. premiere!

Snippets from Respected Colleagues About America the Beautiful (movie/documentary)

…Interviewing such luminaries as Eve Ensler (“Stop fixing your body, it was never broken”) and anti-luminaries (black holes?) such as Atoosa Rubenstein (“I don’t think that advertisers and marketers are these people who want to make people feel bad”), Ted Casablanca (“Should the media be held responsible? I can’t believe you are even asking me that question!”) and Bonnie Fuller (“We’re not going to put you on the cover if you’re ugly. Ugly doesn’t sell.”), Darryl Roberts tackles America’s dirty little secret. Well, as secret as Victoria’s secrets are anyhow…” –Huffington Post

“I can say a lot about both the film and Darryl. But the most important thing is, GO SEE IT! And TAKE ALL YOUR FRIENDS! (It’s R-rated due to something Eve Ensler says in an interview but is far more appropriate for teens than any other R-rated movie I can think of…After getting home, I kept thinking about the film and what I can do to help pre-teen and teen girls believe in and honor their inner beauty and fight the popular media who hold their self-esteem hostage.Nancy Gruver’s New Moon Girl Media Review

…”Whoooo! Goosebumps Mamas! Sheer goosebumps! —At the end of the movie the director took questions from the audience and actually brought out Gerren for questions…a very nice treat for the audience and especially my daughter who watches Gerren on BETs “Baldwin Hills” reality show. I could go on and on, but really you just have to see this movie. And please, take lots of other women and teens, too. It has an R rating, but only because of a few references to sexual anatomy and some graphic plastic surgery footage.”–Felicia Richardson Battle’, Reign of the Girl Child

And as long as we’re on the topic of body image, don’t miss our own Dr. Robyn Silverman’s recent post No Wonder Girls Are Confused, all about Jennifer Love Hewitt’s recent mixed messaging in the media…sheesh. Whiplash anyone?

Recent Roundup: America the Beautiful At a Glance

Shaping Youth Interviews ATB Director Darryl Roberts (prequel) (ATB review)

ABC News, L.A. Video: 1:48 minutes Airbrushing the Truth

CNN Video: 2:10 minutes The Ugly Side of Beauty

CNN Video/Showbiz Tonight: 3:26 minutes American Beauty Standard

Good Morning America/ABC Video

Today Show/MSNBC Video 4:47 min

…And from Darryl Roberts’ e-mail updates:

“Quick story. The last day that I was in New York a woman walked up to me and said she was an executive from MTV. I wasn’t really in the mood for confrontation so my attitude was just sue me. But she wasn’t there to sue me. She said she was there to let me know that MTV is aware of the damage that they’ve done to young girls and they’ve put some programs in place to help them. The woman then proceeded to show me some social programs that MTV had started to help with girls self-esteem. I was blown away! She told me that she’d like to see what MTV could do to help me with the film.

Then Glamour Magazine and 17 Magazine posted a blog on their website saying that the film was awesome. Just goes to show you, there are always some good crusaders in every industry willing to make a difference.” –Darryl Roberts, Director, America the Beautiful Documentary

That’s for sure, Darryl. Our consortium is one of ’em…Shaping Youth board members and advisors, we owe it to this gent to pay it forward and show him who the industry ‘good guys’ are…help out in your respective cities!

L.A. Theater Openings Aug. 22, Today: See It This Weekend!

From ATB Director Darryl Roberts today:

“You can guarantee that we’ll have a great opening weekend by forwarding this email to 10 people that you know in the Los Angeles proper. Stress to them that should see the film tonight, tomorrow or Sunday. Because Monday the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theater (tix here) will decide if we get to stay another week or not based on this weekend’s numbers. (Click to order/they’ll hold at boxoffice)—I’ll be at the Laemmle Sunset 5 Theater tonight hosting a Q&A with some of the people featured in the film TONIGHT after the 7 and 9:45pm shows. Join us! I’ve been told that there are only a few tickets left for the 7pm show. So make sure you get your tickets online and when it sells out, join us for the 9:45pm show.”

Los Angeles, CA – August 22nd

Laemmle Sunset 5
8000 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, 90046

Culver Plaza Theatres
9919 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 836-5511

Academy Cinemas
1003 E. Colorado Blvd
At Colorado & Catalina
Pasadena, CA. 91106

Edwards Westpark 8 Cinema
3755 Alton Pkwy
Irvine, CA 92606
(949) 622-8600

Visual Credit: Gerren Taylor photo: Kirk McCoy, LATimes

Official Trailer for America the Beautiful, movie documentary:



  1. I’m glad this message is getting out, because so many girls excessively worry about beauty to the neglect of thier minds. The brain is such a powerful part of them and can do so much to bring fulfillment to life, but above all it needs as much nurturance as does all the beauty we see emphasized in society today.

    None of us is perfect. I know I really struggled in high school with low self-esteem. Great to see the media look at this in a new way. Thanks for publicizing it, Amy.

  2. Thanks, Robyn, for the support…we see this in our work on an ongoing basis, and it pains me greatly to see such bright minds reduced to ‘objectified tissue’ and body blitzed with insecurity and appearance based ‘shoulds.’ It’s incredibly damaging to BOTH genders and unequivocally getting worse.

    My own daughter, who is about as media literate and ‘aware’ as they come (hazards of having a passionista mama) upholds a ludicrous interpretation of ‘perfection’ and berates herself regularly. When I called her on it, in ‘c’mon, get real, you KNOW better than to buy into these media messages!’

    She answered, “Just because I KNOW about ’em doesn’t mean I’m not affected by ’em.”

    sigh. Now THAT is scary. How do we counter-market this stuff sticking in the brains of kids who are FULLY aware of all the tricks of the trade, profiteering, and manipulation of kids’ psyches to mine insecurities for profit…much less the ones that DON’T know these ideals are unattainable?! argh.

    Any brainpower you can give to this would be grand.

    I can’t wait to ask the director of the film when I interview him on Friday…It’s a core question that I desperately need advice upon in ALL of our work with youth here in the counter-marketing realm.

    p.s. If you have any specific questions to add…I’d LOVE to hear them on behalf of our readership, so that I can ask him on Friday…now’s the time to weigh in, readers!!!

  3. Excellent article here, hat tip to Jennifer Lance at Eco Child’s Play, thank you SOOO much!

  4. btw, it’s sourced from the LA Times:,0,4921114.story

    And here’s the study itself, called “Beauty At Any Cost” conducted by the YWCA:

    Quick summary of facts to get your attention?

    “40% of newly diagnosed cases of eating disorders are in girls 15 to 19 years old, but symptoms can occur as young as kindergarten. Girls who spent the most time and effort on their appearance suffered “the greatest loss of confidence.”

    “69% of the respondents (18 and older) said they were in favor of plastic surgery – a 7% increase from 2006.”

    “Americans fork over nearly $7 billion a year to cosmetics, beauty supply and perfume stores, and nearly 11.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed – an almost 500% increase in such procedures from 1997.”

    And this one’s a whopper, finance friends…(are your reading this Girls Economic Power Day team?)

    “One of the many factoids in the report noted that if women put the average amount of money they spent on monthly manicure-pedicures ($50) into an interest-bearing retirement account every year for 10 years, they would have almost $10,000 saved.”


  5. Wonderful as always and thanks for linking to Reign! I really can’t wait to read your interview with Darryl and what you thought about the movie. I still get excited when I tell people about it and I saw it weeks ago!

    Also, please excuse my e-ignorance [blushing]…but what how exactly do you “Ping” someone?

  6. Ok…ignore my e-ignorance from above [blushing again] I figured it out. 😀

  7. Hi, just wondering…I have tried three times in two days to leave a comment on this post and it doesn’t appear. What might I be doing wrong?

    Have been able to comment on other posts…

  8. suzie goodwiin says

    when will did movie be released on dvd or coming to sacramento?

  9. Hi Suzie, here’s the movie listing schedule:
    And the dvd will be coming out soon…so stay tuned to their site for more…

  10. Dear Shaping Youth,
    I teach a weekend class at Portland State University on Body Image and the Media. I just ordered the America the Beautiful DVD and discovered your website. When do you expect your Body Blitz DVD to be available? It seems perfect for my class. Most of my students are parents, working and going to school. Any resources you can suggest would be appreciated.
    Thanks very much for your good work,
    Sally Sheklow

  11. Hi Sally, Seems like a plethora of body image DVDs hit the market concurrently, so we put a hold on production (costly, so it’s stalled in dev/pending funding to use raw footage as interstitial reporting or finish it off as a ‘short’)

    I can highly recommend another one that’s pretty new too called “Cover Girl Culture” (it has a similar focus, and so it feels like the market was getting saturated with this storytelling too. Here’s their link to watch it online:

    Also the body image series at Media Education Foundation w/Jean Kilbourne’s Killing Us Softly/So Sexy So Soon and Slim Hopes documentaries really pioneered this visual storytelling…

    Also, fairly new ’08 Diane Israel’s Beauty Mark: Body Image & the Race for Perfection (about her career as a runner and the overzealous drive to her own health demise) Here’s the link to the MEF library for trailers and more:

    Hope that helps, and if you know of arts funders to polish it off, send ’em my way! 😉 I almost think at this point the short :90 second clips of interstitials/news features is the way I want to go…(special reports on body image/impact on kids, etc)

    Thanks for the outreach. All the best, Amy

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