Made Over in America

Directed by Bernadette Wegenstein and Geoffrey Alan Rhodes

65 minutes / Color
Release: 2007
Copyright: 2007

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.

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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.

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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.

"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

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Select Accolades

  • Bronze Award, 2008 Health and Science Communications Association Media Festival


Comprehensive and unflustered research into the history and biology of the female anatomy.

Claudia Richarz and Ulrike Zimmermann | 2014 | 52 minutes | Color | English subtitles