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Bionic Beauty Salon

by Gretchen I Stoeltje

A chronicle of fact and fiction about the female body

Bionic Beauty Salon addresses the insecurities in women of all ages who learn to place their self-worth in the measure of their beauty. Its personal voice and funny, adolescent sensibility make it intellectually accessible to girls and women of all ages. The film offers a model for how to reclaim the media and find one's self through one's own voice. As art, it provides students much needed direct contact with poetic and artistic uses of electronic media. Its primary audience is teenage girls but should include anyone who struggles to understand female socialization, and anyone who has ever assessed the physical beauty of a woman.  


Bionic Beauty Salon subjects the beauty standard, an abstract mechanism of culture, to the distinctly unabstract opinions of teenage girls. Says one, "you can have a great personality, but if you're fat, it's like you're half a person." Says another, "Society wants you to be self confident and they want you to respect your body. But then you observe the type of respect that beautiful women get and you think: I shouldn't feel bad but I do." Companion and counterpoint to these interviews, a pair of perfect ruby lips dole out beauty tips from inside a compact's mirror, a surgeon performs liposuction on tapioca and jello, an ice cream sandwich sunbathes by the pool, and a grown woman searches for cosmetic-counter salvation. Overseeing these struggles, the Bionic Woman, TV's first cyber-Barbie, recharges in luxury at her Bionic Beauty Salon, a toy marketed to TV-watching girls in the '70s.

quoteIn this vivid narrative Gretchen Stoeltje gives us witness to the crux of women's contemporary heroism. The six just-pubescent women who are seen throughout testify to their strategies for achieving power, and the dragon dangers in cultural standards for beauty. This brief, effective film will be welcome indeed in women studies, popular culture, mythology, and narrative classrooms at secondary and college levels.
Marta Weigle,
Dept. of Anthropology, University of New Mexico

quoteThis is one of the best films on female socialization I've seen....opening a space where performance art, media criticism and sociology meet. Part hip satire, part social document, Bionic Beauty Salon is a funny, smart and often poignant meditation on the role which the beauty industry plays in women's lives.
Joan Hawkin
Dept. of Communication and Culture/American Studies,
Indiana University

full review

quote...especially useful for anyone planning to enter a career where he or she will be working with young women. The interviews with the young women seem worth the price of admission alone. Recommended ...for classes in Women's Studies, Psychology, Child Development.
Adrienne Furness
Educational Media Reviews Online

quoteThese young women are remarkably articulate and self-aware. Light years ahead of where I was at that age. In 1991, what was their version of "The Bionic Woman"? Their pop culture source of fantasy and self-transformation?...Years later, the film has lost none of its relevance to our society’s obsession with female beauty.
Sabrina Barton
Pygmalion's Fantasy


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Bionic Beauty Salon

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Appropriate for: Middle School High School College/University

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study guide, chapter breaks, filmmaker bio, information about New Day Films

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