Director presents ‘America the Beautiful: Health for Sale’

Erin Coppock

In recognition of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Iowa State welcomed Darryl Roberts on Monday to debut and discuss his self-directed film “America the Beautiful: Health for Sale.” The film is the sequel to “America the Beautiful,” which debuted in 2008.

Roberts is president of Sensory Overload Entertainment and is an acclaimed writer, producer and director. He also worked in radio and was the host of “Hollywood Hype,” a program that covered the entertainment industry. Despite all of this, Roberts is most known for his film “How U Like Me Now,” which focused on different aspects of human relationships.

“America the Beautiful” analyzes all aspects of America’s unhealthy obsession with body image and appearance. The film touches on many topics associated with body image and picks apart just exactly why American society is obsessed and how this obsession came to be.

The sequel “America the Beautiful: Health for Sale” discusses everything from plastic surgery and celebrity worship to just how much a role the media has had in creating our expectations. It focuses more on the health aspect and analyzes what exactly “health” really is. 

“America the Beautiful: Health for Sale” is a work in progress. Roberts made it known at the beginning of the film that it wasn’t complete and that having showings like the one at Iowa State helps him — as a producer, writer and director — to make his documentary better because it allows for feedback.

The main idea of the movie follows that “being healthy” isn’t a one-size-fits-all term, even though our society has promoted health as being something of that nature. The movie covers the topic of BMI — body mass index — and how it’s used to diagnose people as being obese, overweight or normal. The problem, according to the movie, is that BMI is very objective and doesn’t take into account the person’s lifestyle, including their diet and exercise routines. This idea was supported by showing people, who were clearly not overweight, being categorized as such.

The movie also emphasized putting children and teenagers into these categories can have negative psychological repercussions. By labeling a child as “obese” or “overweight,” it tells a child they should feel ashamed, fearful and also tells them they aren’t normal by society’s standards. This is largely in part because of the media and the way we, as a society, put such a negative connotation on being overweight.

The movie even suggests many people associate being overweight and being dumb, lazy and even at times associate being “fat” as being a part of a lower social class.

What is healthy then, and how can Americans be healthy? Many doctors who were interviewed in the movie stated that being overweight was a major problem, and drastic measures sometimes are necessary in order to be healthy. They show doctors who blame heart disease and diabetes on people being overweight. They are quick to prescribe medicines and diagnose people with problems simply because they carry extra weight.

“America the Beautiful: Health for Sale” takes a different approach by interviewing many credible authors, psychologists and sources. Most of them agree on one thing: Weight cannot be an accurate depiction of someone’s health and no one can tell someone’s lifestyle by looking at them.

Being “fat” doesn’t always mean that a person is unhealthy, and being “thin” doesn’t always mean someone is healthy. These sources emphasize that dieting isn’t the answer and it’s not about weight; it’s about lifestyle and balance. Americans are receiving many mixed messages, and myths are fed to them every day, and Roberts’ movie addresses these myths and gives a new meaning to what “health” really is.

The second part of the presentation gave filmgoers the opportunity to ask Roberts questions and also gave Roberts the chance to discuss his plans for the ending of his film. The question and answer portion of the presentation allowed students to clear up any confusion they had during the film as well as offer opinions on how to improve the film.

Questions asked were about many different topics discussed in the movie, and Roberts answered every question in detail and with sincerity. Feedback about the movie to Roberts wasn’t lacking among students at the presentation either. More than 25 questions were asked and close to 11 suggestions were offered to Roberts, and Roberts took the time to address each one and elaborate on them on an individualized basis.