America the Beautiful 3: The Sexualization of Our Youth Pines for ‘a More Innocent Time’


The third in a loose trilogy of documentaries examining our declining national ideals, America the Beautiful 3: The Sexualization of Our Youth falls under the larger umbrella of media pondering the negative ramifications of growing up in an increasingly digitized, instant-gratification society.

Director Darryl Roberts identifies culprits such as pornography, Abercrombie and Fitch, and child beauty pageants as both creating and exacerbating these issues — it’s all marketing, several of his interviewees argue, and companies have been courting increasingly young potential customers for decades now. The most alarming of these is undoubtedly the pageant industry, which teaches frightfully impressionable girls to equate outer appearance with inner value.

Roberts hearkens back to the days of his youth as “a more innocent time,” a familiar-enough complaint that he makes persuasive: when dirty magazines were rare, and sex, though certainly on adolescents’ minds, wasn’t also everywhere else. Bringing in a chorus of teenagers and twentysomethings who both react to and offer proof of eyebrow-raising statistics related to sexual assault and teen pregnancy, the filmmaker occasionally seems so taken aback by these problems as to consider them hopeless.

His subjects’ resiliency is buoying, however, and enough to make him believe there may be as much hope for the future as there is fondness for the past.