America The Beautiful

My husband and I went to see America The Beautiful by director Darryl Roberts last night, an event I had been looking forward to for weeks.

America The Beautiful sets out to determine, as the tag line states, "is America obsessed with beauty?"

I think this one is definetly worth seeing, but be aware it is wildly unfocused, touching broadly on every beauty related topic known to man - skimming from dangerous chemicals in makeup to vaginal plastic surgery to a bunch of college knobs sitting on a couch dogging women (yeah, this thing is a trip).

This project wasn't even a movie when Roberts started, he was simply acting on an idea to interview women about beauty and body image, gather their thoughts, and learn more about the topic for himself (his two failed relationships ended because he thought he could find someone more beautiful).

Five years and 900 hours of film later, he came out the other side with America The Beautiful, a documentary that has reached well beyond his expectations.

The poor guy had no idea what he was in for.

Roberts himself serves as narrator with a tone of voice that is charmingly naive and well…odd;

"Growing up in my life, I had never heard of an eating disorder," revealed Roberts, during our post show interview.

"Never? You never heard of an eating disorder?" I inquired (I thought the dude was kidding).

"Never heard of it. Then, when I learned during interviews with NY models they were starving themselves, I thought women that did that deserved what they got."

He quickly redeemed himself, and went on to say the reality and sadness of it all sunk in when he interviewed the grieving parents of a bulimic daughter who succumbed to her disease. Soon after he was  bombarded by eating disorder organizations nationwide (NEDA had a representative and literature poised on a table in the front of the theater). It was then he realized the enormity of this territory he had stepped smack into.  

"The eating disorder groups tell me my mentality reflects the viewpoint of the vast majority of Americans. As professionals, they are tuned out by the mainstream, and they believe I can spread the message through the film faster than they ever could."

Roberts has done 171 screenings with ED organizations thus far, and as he yawned he told us he was boarding a plane in the morning to Vienna to attend an International Conference on Body Image (nice to know there is such a thing, tried to find more info on it but couldn't).

As we said goodbye to Roberts, and wished him well on his flight, I had a weird feeling that took me until today to decipher.

Roberts is a reluctant activist.

He does not have the passion for the tragic subject matter at hand. ED's cut to the bone. This is life and death, yet Roberts seems to be going along for the ride. 

Plus, there's something unsettling about NEDA, and others, wanting Roberts to play the poster guy for eating disorder awareness. Its because Roberts is still trying to figure out exactly where he and his film fits in and I would venture to say he'd like hang it up and move on.

I think Roberts will land where he is supposed to, likely with America The Beautiful distributed to schools for educational purposes. But I'll place my bet that we won't see him as the next NEDA President.

Especially since he stated his next project is a romantic comedy.

As I said….odd.


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6 Responses to America The Beautiful

  1. anon says:

    odd, maybe, but I’m not quite sure what your expectations for Roberts are.? According to his interview responses, he pointedly stated he had little to no knowledge of eating disorders before the research/making of this film. Why should he be “the next president of NEDA,” if, that is, what you are suggesting? So, because he brings mixed messages to ed’s–his lack of knowledge, sincere commitment to, etc…–(as implied in this post, and as people have also called attention to your own handling of ed’s), he lacks credibility in bringing awareness to eating disorders? I’m not understanding the core of your criticism here.

  2. Hungry Waif says:

    At the end of this movie, they talk with Carolyn =Costin in her treatment facility she’s set up in malibu, Monte Nido. I discharged from that treatment cent in early october, after being there for three months. While there, we went to the la screening and we all loved it. Should roberts be the poster guy for NEDA? I am not sure, all of the staff of my treatment center had been recovered, and I sort of feel its appropriate for someone to represent NEDA to have personally gone through the recovery process.

  3. Elle says:

    Odd, I have never heard of this movie.
    Was it out in theatres? We even have an ‘underground theatre’ and I haven’t heard of it. Where can I find it at? Do they have it at the movie stores to rent?
    I’d really like to see it.

  4. mamaV says:

    Hi Anon and Hungary Waif: When I stated “poster child” and “NEDA President” in relation to Roberts future associations with ED organizations, I was exagerating to make a point.
    Here’s what I meant…no sarcasm this time; my gut told me that this guy was kind of being used by the ED organizations to serve their mission of ED awareness. On the flip side, Roberts is likely using the ED Organizations to sell his movie. Is this wrong? Is it a huge deal? No- but it bugged me.
    I bugged me because I am so damn passionate about everything ED, I am probably too sensitive, too overboard, too serious…. I know this and I shouldn’t expect everyone to feel this type of emotion. But I guess I do because what is going on in this country is outrageous.
    What I got from Roberts was NO emotion. Just a guy sitting like a lump, poor listener, yawning, and saying “yeah, its really sad actually.”
    This made me want to ring his neck.
    I have to say though – he was exhausted and he was totally freaking out about flying the next day, so in fairness his head was not in the game, and maybe he deserves some slack?
    Then again, maybe not,

  5. mamaV says:

    Hi Elle: The movie came out in 2007, and it is showing in various cities which are listed here
    This film is worth seeing, I did find it engaging as we watched. It wasn’t until after the film, when we started discussing it, and processing all the messages within it, that I just wasn’t going for it as having any sort of authorative voice. Its very basic stuff, probably most of it you know, but I think it would be good for high school students to see if they cut out the parts that gave it an R rating.

  6. anon says:

    Addressed to your first Nov 27 post:
    It’s for you to decide whether he deserves slack or not, and you’ve seemed to have made that decision already.
    I appreciate how you dedicate that last bit of your post to explain Roberts’ state of being (sleep deprived, phobia of flying, etc…) as if to (almost) acknowledge the humanness that sometimes gets in the way of presenting oneself as a charismatic and passionately concerned advocate against ED’s.
    Furthermore, the sarcasm (in regards to the phrases you quoted above) was detected in my first reading of your post; however, as sarcasm often functions as a pretense for fundamental assumptions/ideologies, it is difficult to dismiss as mere banter.

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