Tag: darryl roberts

America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments

America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

Though Darryl Roberts’ documentary about America’s obligation to be thin is neither the most focused nor the most astute, it is informative and at times a surprising look at one nation’s psychological crisis. That is, the obsession to keep losing weight even if it is achieved through unhealthy means—which likely causes physical and psychological problems in the long run.

The film runs a little long. The first thirty minutes, though amusing, is tantamount to junk food where the director is shown trying to determine which avenue he should take when it comes to losing weight. After visiting the doctor and being informed that his blood pressure puts him at a high risk for developing serious illnesses, he starts to consider three options: taking medication, eating healthy and calorie-counting, and eating only raw food. While the third option has its terrifying moments because its proponents are so uninformed, it is a miscalculation to pair avenue-searching with a very serious subject: the validity of BMI (Body Mass Index) which sets the standard of what is considered obese. BMI is clearly a problem because of its one-size-fits-all approach.

There are plenty of people who get a chance to speak to the camera, from former supermodels like Beverly Johnson to the scientific advisors of Weight Watchers, but the documentary is most effective and most haunting when it shows the repercussions of wanting so badly to be thin.

Roberts visits a middle school and a group of young boys walk in. We are informed that they had eating disorders. They look healthy now but it is established that one cannot really “cure” a person who has had an eating disorder even though behavior has been altered. Their faces are blurred for privacy purposes. Incidentally, this allows us to focus on their bodies—mainly their arms as to whether they look thin or normal currently—as they discuss what they did to lose weight. At one point, a boy says that he had restricted his food intake not because he wanted to be strong or healthy or get a six-pack. He just wanted to look skinny. A person receives less respect when a person is fat.

Later, we come to meet a woman named Jenn. She has been diagnosed with severe anorexia nervosa. While she speaks, instead of looking at her face, I stared at her stick-thin arms, how weak and frail they appear. Then I was reminded of Lauren Greenfield’s “Thin,” an excellent documentary, and how it shows that people with anorexia, even though they are essentially skin and bones, still consider themselves as overweight.

But the documentary does not rest with restriction. One of the director’s friends is obsessed with working out. Even when there is a snowstorm and people are advised to stay indoors, she goes out—putting herself and others in danger—to go to the gym because she claims she does not feel like herself if she skipped a day. When she gets the flu, she still goes to the gym. Putting other people’s health on the line does not concern her. On top of that, she smokes as not to feel hungry.

The approach of “America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments” is casting a huge net and covering as many topics as possible. While it is likely to engage the casual viewer, it is not a movie for me because I felt as though I already knew what the experts (and “experts”) had to stay. In order for it to have been a stronger work, it ought to have shown more examples of how extreme dieting and weight loss can not only ruin a life but actually put it to an end. No one looks beautiful as one rots in the ground.

America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful (2007)
★★ / ★★★★

I was reluctant with giving this documentary a mediocre rating because I did enjoy watching it. However, as a movie that tried to explore the issue about the American society’s standard for beauty, I felt that the arguments were all over the place and sometimes contradicted itself. Written and directed by Darryl Roberts, he mostly targeted the fashion industry, its unrealistic expectations when it comes to its models and the messages that they knowingly impart on people, especially children, on what is considered beautiful. For me, one of its biggest flaws was that it failed to admit to itself that the fashion industry is, in fact, a business and a good one at that. When it makes the argument that the industry treats its models like nobodies, that’s not anything new or insightful (at least for me because I’m familiar with fashion to an extent) because the models work FOR the fashionistas and they ARE products that needed to be as glamorous as possible so that money would be made at the end of the day. Placing most of the blame on the fashion industry is a bad move because there are other types of media out there that are arguably more influential (like music artists and music videos). The movie also tackled what was shown on television and magazines. Now, I think it did a pretty good job showing younger people perusing through magazines and pointing out the media’s unrealistic expectations on how to have the “right” look. However, I thought the film became evasive once again because it didn’t really explore or even mention personal responsibilities. An interviewee made a good point about the act of choosing to open up a magazine but it was as if as though Roberts had already put the interviewee under a negative light so what the interviewee said was pretty much thrown away the minute she stopped talking. I was very alarmed by this because when Eve Ensler (“The Vagina Monologues”), from the opposite spectrum, was being interviewed about the media and its effect in society, I got the feeling that the director wanted us to listen to her and really think about was she was saying. Granted, what she said about the media’s subtle ways of influencing people was indeed quite smart. However, my point is that the documentarian was obviously biased. I would have given this movie a less forgiving review if it wasn’t for Gerren Taylor’s journey from being a frontrunner to becoming the next supermodel to “just another model” who can no longer get booked (especially in Paris) because she was “too fat.” Personally, I think she’s thin. You don’t have to major in Biology to be able to tell that a girl who is six feet tall and has a waist of 96 centimeters is skinny. (The agencies wanted her to be at most around 90 centimeters.) This documentary had its ups and downs but I’m giving it a mild recommendation because either way, one will have a strong opinion about it when it’s over.