America the Beautiful a Well-Intentioned, Scattershot Look at the Image Conscious


The scattershot America the Beautiful recapitulates vintage Beauty Myth trumpery: Beauty standards make us average frumps miserable and are the conspiratorial invention of a cabal of Madison Avenue execs working in concert with Patriarchal Hegemony. Director Darryl Roberts, a well-intentioned softie, follows early-blooming 13-year-old Gerren Taylor up the ranks of supermodeldom, with visits to the plastic surgeon and wretched, pop-scored montages. The title’s indefensible; the implication is that beauty standards are a particular province of the U.S., but there’s no evidence provided as to what separates us from other modern, media-soaked nations (and even less made of the fact that, for a people allegedly obsessed with self-image, we’re fatties). The eminently obnoxious Eve Ensler shows up to bolster Roberts’s central thesis: We’re all helpless to resist the hypnotic tune of advertisers, magazine editors, and the runway bunch. Of course, in the real world, no industry is more widely mocked and disdained than fashion, and tuning out commercials is something most cognizant people learn to do by kindergarten. Nevertheless, Roberts & Co. seem to demand a paradigm shift—say, a return to the pre-industrial Eden (anorexia, we’re told, came to Fiji along with the first televisions). Good luck with that.