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, offering a model for reclaiming the media and finding one's voice. 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.

In 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
Synopsis: 

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.

Reviews

This 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. The “experts” here are young women, talking about beauty, power and identity, and their interviews-interwoven with clips from The Bionic Woman and the filmmaker’s ongoing conversation with her mirror make for very provocative viewing.

Joan Hawkins, Dept. of Communication and Culture and American Studies, Indiana University

...this is an interesting and worthwhile production. The interviews with the young women seem worth the price of admission alone, and the rest of the film provokes thought. This film would work equally well with high school and college students, and is especially useful for anyone planning to enter a career where he or she will be working with young women.

Adrienne Furness, Alfred C. O'Connell Library, Genesee Community College