June 6th, 2010

America the Beautiful Documentary

America the beautiful movie poster

So last night I watched this documentary America the Beautiful (instant download on Netflix), about the role of beauty in American society. The film is a little random and rough-around-the-edges, but it contains a lot of information that I can't believe I wasn't aware of, such as:

- Plastic surgery in America is basically completely unregulated. Anyone with an MD can operate as a "plastic surgeon," even if their medical training is in something completely unrelated, like they're an OB/GYN. The film interviews a woman who had been a rising star in cable news and who went in for a brow lift. The botched surgery left her in constant pain and so sensitive to light and noise that she no longer leaves the house. (She is also now uninsurable.) She found out later that her surgeon had learned the procedure during a weekend course at which he had practiced on a tomato.

- American cosmetics contain hundreds of toxic chemicals that are banned in Europe. (The EU bans 450 chemicals from cosmetics, the FDA bans 6.) Attempts to introduce regulations here have been stymied by the cosmetics industry.

- One reason fashion designers want models who are frighteningly skinny is because the fabrics are so expensive. The difference in making an outfit for a scary-skinny model versus a super-skinny model might be ten thousand dollars or more. So it's not just about warped aesthetics, it's also about the bottom line. This makes models seem almost like workers in mines or on oil rigs, where people are forced to work under extremely unsafe conditions because their employer is cutting corners.

- One binge-purge cycle can disrupt your electrolyte balance enough to kill you.

- The celebrities you see sitting in the audience at fashion shows are paid to be there. Media outlets wouldn't bother covering these events if the celebrities weren't there, and celebrities wouldn't bother coming if they weren't being paid.