Misogyny is rampant in this culture, and corporations capitalise on making women hate their bodies. Indeed all aspects of womanhood are commodified, hypersexualised, and squeezed into gender stereotypes. Being female comes at a cost. So it’s no wonder that young people growing up can feel horrible about themselves and their bodies, and further feel confused about what it means to be a woman in today’s world. Into this perfect storm steps queer theory, an ideology born in the 1990s, that tells people that all the confusing feelings they may experience about the world they live in can be fixed not by changing the world, but by changing themselves. The past decade has seen a steep rise in the number of young girls seeking to alter their bodies by undergoing life threatening, irreversible procedures. Dysphoric is a series that explores this concept of gender transition, told through the voices of clinicians, psychiatrists, sociologists, feminists, academics, detransitioners, and concerned citizens and parents. The series also discusses the permanent medical side-effects of hormones and surgeries, the propaganda of corporations that glorify thousands of stereotypical gender presentations coalesced as fashion, the surge in pronoun policing, censorship and the curtailment of speech, language hijacking that calls women “menstruators,” and the many other hurdles women face while trying to question this modern-day misogyny.
Brazen Hussies documents how a daring and diverse group of women joined forces in Australia to create profound social change, contributing to one of the greatest social movements of the 20th Century. The film weaves archival footage, personal photographs, memorabilia, and lively accounts from the women who reignited the feminist movement in Australia, at times at great personal cost, to show how women began organising around issues such as equal pay, reproductive rights, affordable childcare, and the prevention of family violence and rape. As the story unfolds, these issues go from being dismissed as the outrageous demands of a few “brazen hussies” to becoming crucial elements of mainstream politics. The film documents how ASIO spied on the movement, the pushback from male-dominated media, and the impact of internal struggles, such as the inclusion of lesbians and the relevance of the movement to Aboriginal women. 50 years on, the work of this movement paved the way for where feminism finds itself today. And while the landscape, breadth and diversity of feminism is vastly different, without this movement and the changes it achieved, we wouldn’t be where we are now. Recording and celebrating this important history, offers a valuable opportunity to reassess and discuss where we are now as a society, what gains have been made, what is at risk, and where we are headed.
When Dolly Parton sang “9 to 5,” she was doing more than just shining a light on the fate of working women in the United States. Parton was singing the true story of the 9to5 movement that started with a group of secretaries in the early 1970s that wanted change in their workplaces. Their goals were simple: equal pay, fair work, and an end to sexual harassment. As the movement went national, it encapsulated the unique intersection of the women’s movement and the labour movement, as the women worked hard to unionise and press for real change in their workplaces. Featuring interviews with 9to5’s founders, 9to5: The Story of a Movement documents the struggle that changed workplace culture in the United States, and echos today.
A 37-year old mum goes undercover as an 11-year old girl to expose the dangers facing kids on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and Kik. Left unsupervised, young children can be exposed to online predators, grooming, and psychological abuse within minutes. In 2018 alone, the filmmakers of this project alerted the FBI to 99 child predators. In 2019 that number is more than 300 and counting. Each of these cases represents a real child experiencing real harm, and the challenge of this short film is to help parents and schools understand this new reality, while also acting to bring online predators, groomers, and paedophiles to justice.
At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal reveals a dangerous athletic culture that prioritised winning over everything else, including protecting young female athletes. For more than 30 years, Larry Nassar worked with gymnasts, as a respected trainer and doctor. He was charming, taught at church, volunteered in the community, and was seemingly well-liked throughout. He treated girls’ aches and pains, becoming a friend and confidant to many along the way, while also sexually abusing them during sessions for many years. When some girls began to speak up about their experiences, they were silenced, gaslighted or denied, all the way up to the highest levels of management, across multiple sporting institutions. After many complaints and eventually a cumulative legal investigation, Nassar ends up exposed as a serial sex offender. This film unpacks the scandal, its cover-up, and aftermath, through interviews with dozens of survivors, as well as coaches, lawyers and journalists, as one of the most high-profile paedophile trials in recent years. It documents the grooming, methods, and psychology of a charismatic sexual abuser, as well as the culture that enables and perpetuates it.
Fuelled by popular personalities on Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat, cosmetic surgery is pushing further into the mainstream. Huge numbers of people, predominantly young women, are choosing to alter their appearance forever as though it’s as simple as buying a new set of clothes. Social-media “influencers” get free procedures in exchange for promoting certain doctors or agencies or products to their audiences. Going on the numbers alone, audiences seem to respond to this blatantly cacophonous advertising, following their social media stars closely, and taking out huge personal loans to get surgery and “keep up with the Kardashians.” Doctors offering the surgery are even becoming media stars themselves, and it’s redefining the meaning of doctor/patient relations. Underpinning this entire industry, is a business model of targeting women who can barely afford procedures by selling the dream of a “new you.” Social-media laps it up, and the cycle repeats. But as this investigation shows, when things go wrong, the physical and financial costs are devastating. Real doctors who are left to pick up the pieces, are warning that the booming industry is creating a dangerous legacy, and not just to the concept of beauty.
The ‘MeToo’ movement has brought the pervasiveness of sexual abuse and harassment in this culture to the mainstream, creating an unprecedented demand for sexual violence prevention models that actually work. The Bystander Moment tells the story of one of the most prominent and proven of these models developed by activist and writer Jackson Katz and his colleagues. Illustrated through archival footage and clips from news, sports, and entertainment media, Katz explores the role of bystanders—especially friends, teammates, classmates, and co-workers—in perpetuating sexual harassment and sexual assault. Katz also gives attention to peer culture dynamics—in particular the male peer culture dynamics across race and ethnicity—that help normalise sexism and misogyny while silencing other men in the face of abuse. The Bystander Moment qualifies the crucial importance of appealing to people not as potential perpetrators or passive spectators, but as active bystanders and allies who have a positive role to play in challenging and changing sexist cultural norms, to stopping abuse and violence.
Servant or Slave follows the lives of five Aboriginal women who were stolen from their families and forced into indentured labour to be domestic “servants” for white people during the late 1890s and into 1900s in Australia. With the government exercising complete control over their wages and livelihood, many thousands of Aboriginal children were condemned to a treadmill of abuse, battery, rape, and slavery, only to discover that even today they’ve had to fight for recognition, respect and reparation for their treatment in the past. This film recounts their experiences, as a portrait of courage, strength and the fortitude to pursue justice for the crimes committed against them.
Audrie & Daisy is a documentary about the trend of teenage girls in the United States being sexually assaulted by their male classmates, and having the assaults recorded and shared on social media. It looks at the trend that the legal system tends to systematically minimise and dismiss cases, resulting in victimised girls not receiving justice. Girls often end up getting bullied both in school as well as online for being rape victims, and the pictures and videos are posted online—almost as trophies—by teens that have committed and witnessed these crimes. The online forum for sharing these images and comments has become the new public square of shame for adolescents. Audrie & Daisy aims to shed light on this dark corner of life facing young adults, and serves to form a powerful tool for honest conversation, analysis, and real justice.
The Porn Factor takes viewers on a journey of discovery, from regional and urban Australia to the centre of the international porn industry in Los Angeles and back. Through candid interviews with young people, pornstars, and other industry professionals, The Porn Factor explores how pornography is shaping young people’s sexual expectations and experiences. Readily available and aggressively marketed online, exposure to hardcore pornography is now mainstream. The classroom or parent talk is now no match for porn—with its endless array of gyrating bodies, offering a quick, easy and anonymous sexual charge. Porn has become the default sexuality educator for young people growing up online. It brings into compelling focus the 21st century challenges faced by parents, schools and others as they seek to equip young people for a sexuality that is safe, respectful and fully consenting.
In 2013, seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons took her own life. She had been gang-raped a year and a half earlier by her classmates and labeled a “slut” as a result. Despite transferring schools many times, she could not escape constant online harassment and in-person bullying. But Rehtaeh’s story is horribly not the only one like this to make headlines in recent years. Why is the sexual shaming of girls and women, especially sexual assault victims, still so prevalent throughout this culture? UnSlut tackles this question through a series of conversations with those who have experienced sexual shaming and how it manifests, while also offering immediate and long-term goals for personal and institutional change.
The Mask You Live In unpacks how this culture’s narrow and harmful definition of masculinity effects boys, young men; girls and women; and society in general in myriad ways, as our children struggle to stay true to themselves when confronted by this culture. Pressured by their peer group, heavily influenced by a barrage of media messages, and even their very own parents and other adults in their lives, our protagonists confront messages encouraging them to disconnect from and suppress their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence, control and manipulation. These traits and stereotypes closely interconnect with problems of race, class, and circumstance, creating a maze of identity issues boys and young men must navigate to become “real” men as the culture expects and perpetuates. Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media also weigh in, offering empirical evidence of how these issues intersect, and what we can do about it.
Traversing the judgement placed on women who bottle-feed their babies, to the stigma surrounding mothers who breast-feed their toddlers, and the stigma of breast-feeding in public, the polarised topic surrounding breast-feeding sets off an emotional and personal debate in a highly eroticised culture, where it is hard for some to remember that breasts have a purpose that is not selling cars, beer, and sex. Milk investigates the overarching themes surrounding the commercialisation of infant feeding and its effects on child mortality, as well as the challenges it presents to adequate health worker training and the judgement placed on women regardless of how they choose to feed their babies. Milk also shows the natural world juxtaposed to the industrialised way in which we receive a new life into this world. Milk follows stories of mothers from different cultures spanning 11 countries, as it reveals the universal issues and challenges facing motherhood and birth today.
Rape on the Night Shift is a harrowing investigation into the rampant sexual abuse of the many thousands of unseen women who clean the shopping centres, banks and offices of some of the largest companies throughout the United States. The cleaning companies and contractors themselves are some of the largest companies throughout the country and the world. This report follows a prior investigation about systemic abuse of migrant women working in America’s fruit and vegetable fields, as well as packing plants and industry. Both set out to document the many aspects of a booming rape culture, driven in part by the synergy of a failure of criminal prosecutions, the legal system, a culture of pornography, the realities for migrant workers, and a perfect storm for human trafficking.
Rape in The Fields is the first part of a year-long reporting effort into the systemic abuse of migrant women working in the fruit and vegetable fields, packing plants and industry of the United States. The film travels from the almond groves of California’s Central Valley to the packing plants of Iowa, from the apple orchards of Washington’s Yakima Valley to the tomato fields of Florida, speaking with dozens of women who have been sexually assaulted and abused on the job. What is shown is that in the vast fields and orchards of today’s vast agribusiness, it’s easy for a rapist to stalk his victims, and the systems function in such a way to protect the rapist, rather than the workers. Many workers are also immigrants who dare not even denounce their attackers for fear they’ll be deported. The situation on the whole is rife for ensuring abuses. A Human Rights Watch report published in May of 2014 found that rape and other forms of sexual abuse and harassment of female workers was a common problem. This report sets out to shed a light on that problem and expose the new-style slavery and abuse of workers that still continues to this day.
Pornography has moved from the outskirts of society into the very mainstream of this culture in over less than a span of a generation. From MTV to Internet pornography everywhere, pop culture industries continue to bombard all of us with sexualised images of idealised women and men that jump off the screen and go straight into our lives, profoundly shaping our identity, the ideas and acceptability of body image, and our most intimate relationships. In this video essay, based on the book of the same name, leading scholar and activist Gail Dines argues that the dominant images and stories disseminated by the porn industry, produce and reproduce a system that perpetuates social inequality and encourages violence against women at its very core. In direct opposition to the claims that pornography has delivered a more liberated, equitable and edgy sexuality, Pornland reveals a mass-produced vision of sex that is profoundly sexist, destructive and pervasive in this culture—a world that severely limits and undermines our collective ability to live authentic, truly equal relationships, free of systemic violence and degradation.
Clothes to Die For documents the worst industrial disaster of the 21st century—the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, in which more than 1,100 people died and 2,400 were injured. The eight-storey building housed factories that were making clothes for many western companies—Prada, Gucci, Primark, Walmart, H&M, Gap, and others. Through a series of compelling interviews and footage from the scene, this film gives a voice to those directly affected, and highlights the greed and high-level corruption that led to the tragedy. It also provides an insight into how the incredible growth in the garment industry has transformed Bangladesh, in particular the lives of women. Clothes to Die For raises fundamental questions about the global fashion industry and the responsibilities of all those involved.
Private Violence focuses on the issue of domestic violence, as told through two survivors: Kit Gruelle, a domestic violence victim turned advocate who seeks justice for all female violence survivors; and Deanna Walters, whose estranged husband Robbie kidnapped and beat her for four days in the cab of his truck. They were pulled over by police and she was taken to the hospital, but in spite of Deanna’s devastating injuries, Robbie was not arrested. The film follows Deanna’s journey as she rebuilds her life and fights to place Robbie behind bars. Ultimately, Private Violence centers on dispelling the logic of the commonly asked question: “Why didn’t she just leave?”
Peter Francis, a former undercover police spy turned conscientious whistleblower, breaks ranks by speaking to the media after becoming troubled by the unaccountable culture of secret police operations throughout the United Kingdom targeting peace activists for decades. Tactics included undercover police officers having sexual relationships with activists, even going as far as commonly having children with the women they were spying on. Undercover agents also often assumed the identities of dead children in order to have “solid cover stories.” We also see how undercover police were asked to look for intelligence that could be used to discredit the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and their campaign. The Lawrence family both speak of their shock at hearing about that the police did this to them. This short investigation opens a flood of questions about the secret history of covert police operations, and indeed the future of them in the context of the sprawling surveillance state of today.
As nations around the globe attempt to fight sex trafficking, many consider legalising prostitution. Two filmmakers travel across ten countries to explore the issue, attempting to answer the question: “How can we prevent sexual exploitation before it happens in the first place?” Though governments are getting better at prosecuting traffickers and providing aftercare to victims, it is time we begin to ask the question of what lies at the root.
We Will Not Be Moved documents the unpredictable reality for thousands of Cambodia’s poor that are being forcibly evicted from their houses in the name of urban development. Cambodia’s land ownership was thrown into chaos when Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge extinguished private title but now money and corruption are playing havoc with the country’s attempts to bring back private property. There is one brave group known as the BK13—a group of 13 women—that are not prepared to let greedy developers take the very, very little they have. But with half a million residents forcibly evicted in recent years, it’s an enormous fight they have on their hands…
Based on interviews conducted with hundreds of young women, Flirting With Danger examines how the wider culture’s frequently contradictory messages about pleasure, danger, agency, and victimisation enter into women’s most intimate relationships. The result is a candid and nuanced look at how women are forced to grapple with deeply ambivalent cultural attitudes about sexuality and relationships. These interviews are essential viewing for tackling the problematic issues surrounding consent, coercion and sexual violence throughout the culture.
Rape Myths on Trial is a provocative presentation by a career criminal prosecutor and advocate for victims of sexual violence, Anne Munch. She examines how cultural attitudes shape the outcomes of rape and sexual assault cases by drawing on years of experience prosecuting sex crimes, showing how rape cases often turn on the involvement of an “unnamed conspirator” — the often-unexamined complex of myths and stories we tell ourselves as a culture about sex, gender, power, and responsibility. By using examples from real cases, and harrowing evidence from actual emergency calls, Munch reveals how these assumptions that juries bring into the courtroom often stack the odds against victims, and at the same time challenges us to think critically about how our own assumptions might unintentionally reinforce victim-blaming. The result is a stunning look inside the criminal justice system and an incisive analysis of this culture’s warped views of women’s sexuality and rights as human beings.
An ex-pornstar, a 12 year old girl, and a 22 year old who yearns for the ‘normal’ genitals as seen in porn movies, are just some of whom are chronicled in Sexy Baby to draw together how the current relentless culture of pornography, social media and popular culture are deeply and profoundly affecting the lives women and girls. Based on intimate and candid conversations with kids in middle school classrooms, suburban shopping malls, nightclubs, college dorms, and high school house parties, the film chronicles trends among small town and big city kids—the pervasive culture affects everyone, everywhere. Most youngsters know someone who has emailed or texted a naked photo of themselves. Many kids have accidentally or intentionally had their first introduction to sex be via hardcore pornography online. Facebook has created an arena where kids compete to be “liked” and constantly worry about what image to portray. Much of what was once private is now made public. The list goes on. Sexy Baby is a powerful indictment of the Internet age and the hyper-sexualised culture affecting women and girls everywhere, as well as an insight into the struggle of parents navigating this new culture, wanting what is best for their kids and the generations to come.
Ever since three reactors went into meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011; a broad, disparate, anti-nuclear movement is growing in Japan. Nowhere is that more apparent, perhaps, than in Fukushima prefecture, where a group of local women boldly protest the deafening silence of the Japanese government over the worst nuclear accident of this century. Largely ignored by their own media, these brave women brush aside cultural shyness and share their honest views on the state of the cleanup, the cover-ups, the untruths and the stagnant political climate in today’s Japan…
In India, China, and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this. Then, girls who survive infancy are often subject to neglect, and many grow up to face extreme violence and even death at the hands of their own husbands or other family members. The war against girls is rooted in centuries-old tradition and sustained by deeply ingrained cultural dynamics which, in combination with government policies, accelerate the oppression of women and girls. Shot on location in India and China, It’s a Girl reveals these issues through the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against injustice.
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners chronicles the life of college professor and civil rights activist Angela Davis, whose affiliation with the Communist Party and the Black Panthers in the 1970s landed her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. This film documents her early years as a student, through to her highly publicised arrest, trial, and subsequent acquittal after 22 months of prison, following a botched kidnapping attempt of Marin County judge Harold Haley in California. The film explores every remarkable detail of Davis’ life, as told through her own stories and a series of intimate interviews.
The number of women in prison in the United States has grown by over 800% in the past three decades. Two thirds are mothers and are incarcerated for non-violent offenses. More than 80% have been victims of domestic violence or sexual assault at some point in their lives. The Grey Area is a discussion of the complex factors behind these statistics, portraying an intimate look at women’s issues from inside the criminal justice system. A small group of female inmates at a maximum women’s security prison, share their diverse experiences with motherhood, drug addiction, sexual abuse, murder, and life in prison. The women explore the “grey area” that is often invisible within the prison walls and delve into issues of race, class, sexuality and gender.
Far from ending with the abolition of slavery, the trade in human beings is thriving more than ever before. Today, 27 million men, women and children are held, sold and trafficked as slaves throughout the world. From the sex slaves of Eastern Europe to China’s prison labour slaves; from Brazil’s hellish charcoal slave camps to entire families enslaved in Pakistan’s brick kilns, this series exposes the people behind modern slavery and the companies who profit from it.
The Purity Myth takes a look at the resurgence of a movement of abstinence, brought about by a powerful alliance of religious ideologues, right-wing politicians, conservative media pundits and policy intellectuals who have been exploiting irrational fears about women’s sexuality. From daddy-daughter “purity balls,” taxpayer-funded abstinence-only curricula, and political attacks on ‘Planned Parenthood,’ to recent attempts by legislators to de-fund women’s reproductive healthcare and narrow the legal definition of rape, The Purity Myth identifies the single false assumption underlying this huge push: that the worth of a woman depends on what she does—or does not do—sexually. This film also argues that the health and well-being of women is too important to be left to figureheads bent on vilifying feminism and undermining women’s autonomy.
The Bro Code unpacks and takes aim at the forces of masculinity that condition boys and men to fundamentally dehumanise and disrespect women. The film breaks down a range of contemporary media forms that are saturated with sexism—movies and music videos that glamorise misogyny, pornography that trades in the brutalisation and commodification of women, comedy routines that make light of sexual assault, and a slate of men’s magazines and TV shows that propagate myths of what it means to be a man in this culture: that it’s not only normal, but “cool” for boys and men to control and humiliate women. There’s nothing natural or inevitable about this mentality. And it’s extremely harmful in the real world. By setting the myths against reality, The Bro Code challenges young people to step up and fight back against this culture, to reject the fundamental idea that being a ‘real man’ means disrespecting women.
In a visual exploration of institutionalised prostitution, Whores’ Glory travels the globe to show how these people really live and work today, across three economically divergent countries. In Bangkok, Thailand, women punch a clock and wait for clients inside a brightly-lit glass box. In the red-light district of Faridpur, Bangladesh, a madam trafficker haggles over the price of a teenage girl. On the border town of Reynosa, Mexico, crack-addictions run high while women pray to ‘Lady Death.’ Whores’ Glory is a unobscured look at the realities of sex-trafficking today and the industry that continues to spawns it and keep it alive.
The infertility industry in the United States has grown to a multi-billion dollar business, and its main commodity is human eggs. Young women all over the world are bombarded by advertising—on college campus bulletin boards, social media, online classifieds—offering up to $100,000 for their donated eggs, to “help make someone’s dream come true.” But who is this egg donor? Is she treated justly? What are the implications to her health? Eggsploitation spotlights the booming business of human-egg extraction told through the stories of women who became involved and whose lives have changed forever after undergoing the procedure. Their accounts provide a cautionary tale to all women who are considering egg donation for the purpose of in-vitro fertilisation or embryonic stem cell research.
With economic collapse besieging the United States, domestic violence statistics show a sharp increase in violence against women. States are closing shelters and cutting support programs, and the culture ignores domestic violence, except when celebrities are involved on TV. In the meantime, more spouses have been killed by their partners in the past several years than soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Power and Control addresses this life and death issue during a time of urgent crisis, a timely and comprehensive exploration of physical and emotional abuse in dominant culture, as refracted through the story of Kim Mosher, a mother of three who has recently left her abusive husband. As Kim and her fragile daughters take up residence in a domestic violence shelter, the film follows the harrowing struggles in a single-parenting survivor’s quest to find work, housing and peace of mind. We also meet Kim’s husband, Josh, himself a survivor of abuse. His attempts to explain his behaviour are troubling—shocking in the context of the story’s final twist. The multi-level narrative also examines the root causes of domestic violence and the solutions that have evolved to stop it, celebrating the battered women’s movement activists who demanded revolutionary change in the 1980s, and examining alternative approaches now being advocated.
We’ve been told again and again that sports and politics don’t mix, that games are just games and athletes should just “shut up and play.” But Not Just a Game argues that far from providing merely escapist entertainment, American sports have long been at the centre of some of the major political debates and struggles of our time. By tracing the good, the bad, and the ugly of American sports culture, Not Just a Game shows how American sports have glamorised militarism, racism, sexism, and homophobia; but also traces a largely forgotten history of rebel athletes who stood up to power and fought for social justice beyond the field of play.
Author and activist Jean Kilbourne analyses the depiction of women in advertising and media by decoding a large array of print and television ads. What is revealed is a torrent of stereotypes; sexist and misogynistic images and messages; laying bare a world of frighteningly thin women in positions of subservience; collectively, the restrictive code of femininity that works to undermine girls and women in the real world. By examining these messages, Killing Us Softly asks us to take advertising seriously, and to think critically about its relationship to sexism, eating disorders, violence against women, popular culture, and contemporary politics.
A young woman is raped when a one-night stand far from home goes terribly wrong. In the aftermath, as she struggles to make sense of what happened, she decides to make a film about the relationship between her own experience and the tangle of political, legal, and cultural questions that surround issues of sex and consent. Using a hidden camera, filmmaker Nancy Schwartzman goes head-to-head with the man who assaulted her, recording their conversation in an attempt to move through the trauma of her experience and achieve a better understanding of the sometimes ambiguous line between free will and coercion. The result is a powerful documentary about the terrible reality of rape and sexual violence, and the more complicated and ambivalent ways sexual assault is often framed and understood in the wider culture, examining issues too often deemed embarrassing, shameful, or taboo.
Filmmaker Darryl Roberts goes on a five year journey to examine this culture’s burgeoning obsession with physical beauty and perfection, showing how increasingly unattainable images contribute to the rise in low self-esteem, body dismorphia, and eating disorders for young women and girls who also happen to be the beauty industry’s largest consumers. In almost 40,000 media messages a year, young people are being told that unless you look like supermodels and rock stars, you’re not good enough for anyone. In 2004 alone, people across the United States spent $12.4 billion on cosmetic surgery. America the Beautiful explores why these people are spending so much money to cover up their discontent that is mainly driven by advertising. What are the true costs of this culture’s obsession with youth, plastic notions of beauty, and impossibly slender physiques? Who actually benefits from this high-priced journey towards a fake ideal, and does it justify an entire nation’s psychosis?
Filmmaker Denice Ann Evans draws heavily on the voices of students in this powerful exploration of hookup culture on college campuses. Supplementing the stories of students with analysis from health professionals and social commentary, the film’s main concern is whether hookup culture is offering young people a new and potentially liberating set of sexual rules, or whether it’s simply reinforcing traditional gender roles and blurring the line between consent and coercion. The result is a timely film that asks tough questions about the relationship between hookup culture, gender politics, and the alarming levels of sexual assault and binge drinking that continue to plague college campuses.
Presented by author and activist Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth explores the phenomenon of how the social power and prominence of women has increased in the past few decades, alongside a paradoxical increase in the pressure they feel to adhere to unrealistic social standards of physical beauty, appearance and presentation. It seems the more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us. Women have breached the power structure, but meanwhile eating disorders have risen exponentially and cosmetic surgery has become a fastest-growing specialty. Pornography has become the main media category—ahead of legitimate films and records combined—and thirty-three thousand American women told researchers that they would rather lose ten to fifteen pounds than achieve any other goal. How did this come to be? The Beauty Myth shows how the edacious commercial culture drives this pressure and leads to a pervasive preoccupation with appearance in both sexes, compromising the ability of women to be effective in and accepted by society. The film is a call to question the culture and redefine the notions of success, beauty and indeed what it means to be a sane human being in this toxic culture.