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photo Made Over in America
By Bernadette Wegenstein
& Geoffrey Alan Rhodes

In the age of surgically enhanced beauty and reality television, how do we perceive body image? Made Over in America combines the style of reality television with experimental film to weave together the voices of producers and consumers, surgeons and their patients, clinical psychologists, media theorists, and youth who are coming of age in a culture where bodies seem to be customizable. Together they form a picture of how the desire for a better self operates within consumer culture and how this desire is fed by media, the makeover industry and culture at large.

Among those in the film are Cindy, a San Diego housewife who felt ugly all her life until she was made over in the first season of FOX's show The Swan, a plastic surgery makeover show; The Swan producer Nely Galan, who says she invented the show to empower women; Cathy, a 21-year-old college student who dreams of carving her own belly into a six pack and her roommate's nose and bottom down to average size; Beverly Hills celebrity cosmetic surgeon and artist Dr. Randal Hayworth, who uses the metaphor of Michelangelo carving beauty from marble to describe his instinctual approach to surgery; and maxillo-facial surgeon and beauty expert Dr. Stephen Marquardt, who has become famous for analyzing beauty according to a mathematically proportionate grid to which all beautiful faces conform.

Made Over in America includes archival material on child development, actual plastic surgery procedures, art video and collage montages showing popular imagery, combined with powerful stories of how far Americans will go to fit in, showing the power of media in shaping ideas of beauty.

65 minutes
© 2007
Purchase $390 DVD
Order No. QA-547
close captioned

Reviews
"An extraordinarily dense and insightful portrait... a sometimes joyous, sometimes scary experience that takes you right to the heart – or should one say to the skin – of the beauty industry." Michael Freund, Head of Media Communications, Webster University, Vienna

"Made Over in America is the type of experience that does not allow for the customary distinction between aesthetic fascination and provocation of thought. As the sequence of puzzling and beautiful images progressively conquers your attention, you are drawn into a whirlpool of complex philosophical questions—questions that immediately concern our present and future. It must have been decades ago that I last felt intellectually intoxicated with similar intensity." Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Albert Guérard Professor in Literature, Stanford University

"Looks at the wide range of plastic surgery options, while also exploring how the practice has become a major element in popular culture... a collage of images and observations in a variety of visual forms and narrative tones that range from darkly humorous to deadly serious." F. Swietek, Video Librarian

"Suitable for high school and college library collections... Appropriate for women's studies programs." Gloria Maxwell, Educational Media Reviews Online

Awards & Conference Screenings
Health and Science Communications Association Media Festival, Bronze Award, 2008

Related Films
Western Eyes: The search for beauty and self-acceptance of two women of Asian descent contemplating plastic surgery — they believe their appearance, specifically their eyes, affect how they are perceived by others.

PicturePerfect: We are barraged by media images that unrealistically glamorize and sexualize women and girls. This lively and engaging film explores the impact these messages have on young women's physical, psychological and emotional health, and offers tools to begin dissecting the media that influence our behaviors, attitudes, and values.

Inside/Out: Toni struggled all her life to feel good about her appearance. At 61, she had finally come to peace with that issue when she suddenly contracted a disease that left half of her face paralyzed. Now she is on a different journey, an internal one, to explore the question of what role physical appearance plays in her self-perception and feelings of self worth?

Her Name Is Zelda: An intimate, sometimes troubling, portrait of life, aging, and womanhood, through the lively exploits of 85-year-old Zelda Kaplan — Manhattan's oldest party animal since Disco Sally. A dancer, social butterfly, model, and humanitarian, Zelda takes life by storm, redefining what it means to be “old” in the process.

Beauty In Aging: From a group of friends who share their experiences of normal aging, to a woman stricken with facial paralysis, to nursing home beauty contestants, to an 85-year-old social butterfly and humanitarian, this program, compiled from excerpts from four videos, allows women to speak for themselves about the transitions of aging.

Let's Face It: A touching and intimate glimpse into the self-explorations of several women in their 40's, 50's, and 60's. As they face the natural reality of aging, they reflect on the impact that physical changes have not only on their bodies, but also on their attitudes about themselves, and on the way they are perceived by society.

Repetition Compulsion
Gorgeous: Animated film by Kaz Cooke, whose character Hermoine, the Modern Girl, tackles plastic surgery, beauty therapy, and bulimia in a feral fit of inadequacy.


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