"America the Beautiful 3" continues a documentary series on the country's obsession with beauty ideals. Whereas the last installment looked at unhealthy body image, the latest explores the fixation on youth.
The film argues that advertisers bombard children with racy messages that parents and schools are too often reluctant to discuss and that such sexualization of children in media has led to unwanted teen pregnancies, among other things. As one teen mother attending Chicago's Charles H. Houston Alternative Charter High School says in the film, some teens are simply yearning for the love they've been deprived of at home.
Filmmaker Darryl Roberts, who has a folksy approach, doesn't just rehash those "Toddlers & Tiaras" narratives of pint-size divas throwing tantrums as overindulgent parents look on. By not exploiting his subjects as a freak show for laughs, the film provokes unease.
But some of the results are mixed. As part of a critique of Abercrombie & Fitch advertising, the film's teenage intern Cali Linstrom drew signs, organized protests, orchestrated a media blitz, managed to meet Chief Executive Mike Jeffries and got the company to sponsor her 20-city speaking tour. This feels staged, just like reality television.
"America the Beautiful 3."
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.