Last night I attended a special screening of "America the Beautiful," an amazing film created by Darryl Roberts. The event was sponsored by Remuda Ranch and Darryl himself was in attendance to share his thoughts and answer questions.
"America the Beautiful" (ATB for short) started as an indie film and over the last two years has evolved into a movement. Darryl himself is a self-described average Joe, about so tall, about so wide, with about so much (well, really no) hair. When asked, he says he chose to make the film because he was saddened by his inability to commit to the beautiful eight year relationship he had with a very special woman because he was convinced he could find someone to be with who was even more beautiful. Today, she is happily married to someone else and Darryl is still single and seeking.
In ATB, Darryl interviews dozens of major and minor players in the fashion and beauty industry, and one message begins to become clear -- as individuals and as a society, we are not seeing clearly anymore. We look in the mirror and we don't even recognize what is in front of us. We have forgotten that we can choose and define what beauty looks, acts, talks, and walks like. We have misplaced our awareness that we get to decide, "Is she beautiful -- TO ME?" "Am I beautiful -- TO ME?"
The most painful part of the film is when Darryl interviews the children. So many of them believe they are ugly, or fat, but they cannot tell us why. A teen boy describes his desire for six pack abs, and when asked gives a crystalline-clear definition of what they are, but can't tell us why they are important to have. Some teen boys express their confusion over teen girls' obsession with thinness, citing preferences that make it clear that the battle of the bulge is being waged on the wrong playground.
Our children are obsessed with our obsession with physical perfection, but unlike us they are not mature enough in their thinking and reasoning ability to understand why or where that obsession comes from. Our teens are growing up in a world where they have already decided that they are ugly and nothing can sway them from that "reality".
And now we add in BMI (body mass index)-based health assessments in public school systems, in a further bid to assuage our own fears by passing them on to our kids. Children can get accurate, comprehensive, individualized health assessments during their yearly annual physical. Schools require physicals prior to admittance. Even if schools need school-based data to advocate for healthier cafeteria options, all it would take is generating a mechanism by which parents could opt in to release appropriate medical data concerning their child to school health staff for confidential research and assessment.
The focus should always be on safeguarding the child's esteem and privacy of health records, which can never be accomplished by making weight or health a matter of peer or public record. We would not want our employers posting our BMI records on the company bulletin board or telling us we can't play in the corporate golf tournament due to our weight. Why are we allowing our children's schools to subject them to the same?
Darryl's next film will focus on the negative impact BMI measurements have on us and on the next generation. I asked him if he will interview Michelle Obama, and am hopeful he will take my request into consideration.
In a culture that is suffering from widespread mass weight and BMI-based hysteria, one lone mentoring voice of reason stands out through Darryl Roberts. He is using his own prior weight and beauty biases to learn and grow.
Or, as my own mentor often reminds me, "It is only a mistake if you don't learn anything."
After which she always asks me, "Did you learn anything?"
Did we? Can we? Are we?