Movie Review: “Cover Girl Culture”
By Nicole Clark, Available through Women Make Movies
2009, 80 minutes
Reviewed by Laini Cassis, 19
Cover Girl Culture is an insightful documentary about the media's impact on teen girls' self-esteem. It is sad to see girls in the film express that their strongest desires are to be skinny and to look like someone they are not. Nicole Clark, the creator of this film, interviews many girls about their opinions on magazines, models, and the media. Also interviewed, for a variety of thoughts and opinions, are plastic surgeons, educators, motivational speakers, models, and adults working for Teen Vogue and Elle magazines. The result of these interviews is astounding, as the viewer witnesses just how detached magazine companies and their advertisers are from the targeted consumer, an average teen girl. For example, many people look to magazines to shape their definition of beauty, while magazine employees point to other factors outside of their pages that can lower a girl's self-esteem. Also, Teen Vogue claims to encourage a healthy body image for their readers, but the teens in the film point out the stick-skinny models whose pictures are next to the so-called "health" articles in the magazine. Plenty of excerpts from these magazines help the viewer understand exactly what teens are absorbing when reading them.
One educator discusses the dismal future " for teen girls when so many aspire to be rich and famous through modeling, rather than striving to be the next president or an educator. Cover Girl Culture presents the strong message that chasing after a model's appearance is an empty pursuit; what does matter is that you feel good about yourself and you treat others with respect.
This eye-opening documentary also looks at factors affecting girls' self-esteem outside of magazines. Eating disorders, celebrity role models, and the use of sex appeal in advertisements, even for girls younger than age 10, are discussed. Also very interesting is a historical flashback about how women around the world have distorted their bodies to achieve their culture's image of a perfect woman. Cover Girl Culture shows the viewer how ridiculous the attempts are to get consumers hooked on beauty products and how harmful they can be to a girl's self-esteem. This documentary is incredibly thought provoking and leaves the viewer with the knowledge and tools to become a critical thinker and consumer in today's cover girl culture.
Note: To learn more about how the media's emphasis on women's appearances and superficial beauty affects girls—and celebrities—see the feature article "(Miss) Represented: How the Media Defines a Woman's Worth" in the upcoming spring/summer issue of Teen Voices, our print magazine, due out in early April. You may also be interested in the film Miss Representation, 2011, Ro*Co Films Educational and Girls Club Entertainment.
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