False Advertising: A Documentary

The creation of Jennifer Bowker, Avery Archie, and Michelle Costales, False Advertising is a documentary about the negative impact of media on women's  relationships with their bodies.

Friends through high school, they joined forces after college and founded Jam Films.

"We all went to high school together and were all friends. After graduating college, Jen presented the idea of a documentary with this subject matter. As a sociology major, Jen studied subject matter such as women's issues and body image. I [Avery] was a communications/video production major in college and have also done a lot of analyzing of media and its relationship towards women. Jen tweeted the idea and I wanted to get on board. Michelle was also on board and we began meeting frequently, talking and discussing our next steps towards making this documentary a reality."  

They're exposing the connection between how beauty is represented by the media and it's negative effect on self-esteem and body image.

"Women are taught from a young age that looks are the most important part of who they are and sadly, that is where their value lies. Unfortunately, there is a strict mold one must fit to be considered “beautiful” in today’s society. This is a direct result of the limited portrayal of what is considered beautiful in the media today."

Though each has their own experience with the effects of false advertising and their own reasons for being inspired to create this documentary, there is a commonality that resonates with so many. 

Jen:  I have grown up in Los Angeles my whole life. With that said, I have been exposed to A LOT of "false advertising," which over time has taken a toll on me. Growing up I didn't really care what I looked like until one day someone asked me, "why aren't you as pretty as your [older] sister?" That simple question changed my life forever. As the words sunk in I began to criticize myself - my hair, clothes, lack of makeup, body type - everything. After that day, I shifted my priories from what I wanted to be when I grew up to my appearance and, from that day on, I started comparing myself to not only my sister but the women in the media who were considered "beautiful" - looking to them to find some answers about how I could fix myself.

Since high school I have overcome a lot of physical and emotional battles regarding body image and self-esteem. Unfortunately, I'd be lying if I said I am free from these chains. Learning to be happy with my body and appearance is a continuous struggle, especially when we live in a society where there is a limited portrayal of what is considered "beautiful." A society where the media decides who and what fits that standard. A society where we are taught from a young age that looks are the most important part of who we are as a woman and that is where our value lies. And a society where we have been taught to never be content with who we are and where we are constantly reminded there is always room for improvement. The problem doesn’t lie in self-improvement but rather in wanting to fix something that isn't broken… wanting to fix something that is perfect just the way it is.

For years I thought I was alone in my feelings of inadequacy because I didn't feel "beautiful" enough. Unfortunately, I am not alone. My story is just one of millions. Everyone has a story to tell, and our goal for this documentary was to find women from all different backgrounds to do just that - to tell their story about how the media has negatively affected their body image and self-esteem with the limited portrayal of women and what it means to be "beautiful." Fortunately, I have found some incredible women willing to be vulnerable and share their stories with everyone. They are very powerful and I can't wait for everyone to see the final product.

Avery: Even growing up in a society engulfed in media and entertainment, I have often found it difficult to relate to anyone showing up on my television screen. Whether it be race, body shape or type it is often difficult for many women and girls to relate to females in the media because of false advertising. As a woman of color it is sometimes troubling to see that there are very little portrayals of people like me in the media. When I was younger I didn't particularly find myself being confident with my body image/looks because women of color were rarely starring in the spotlight, assuming light skinned skinny women were the only ones acceptable in magazines and the media.

Michelle: This project is really close to my heart for many reasons. Growing up in a world where people constantly judge you for how you look was really hard for me. I never thought that I was attractive when I was younger. My hair was frizzy, my arms too scrawny, and my boobs were pretty much nonexistent. I would look through magazines and watch TV shows and always felt like I wasn't even close to what was portrayed as being "beautiful." As I grew up, and I learned and experienced life as we all do, I realized that everyone struggles with this. The girls that were popular in my class, the athletes, the smart-kids, and even the teachers are affected by the media's idea of beauty. We live in a world where image is so important and I wanted to be part of something that threw all of those ideas out the window--that exposed the media’s influence on us as "false advertising" and to let people know that they aren't alone and that we all have struggled with this.

False Advertising documents young women's personal accounts of the affects of media on body image perspective.

In our documentary you will hear the stories and experiences of young women from all different backgrounds; stories about how the media has negatively affected them and those around them. We believe personal stories are very important because, like Avery said above, stories are easier to relate to than statistics and facts.
In the end, the goal of our documentary is to help women, and men, start thinking critically about the media and how they define what is considered "beautiful." It is detrimental to women of all ages when they internalize this ideal of beauty and strive to become it. We want women to know they are not alone in their feelings of frustration, inadequacy, and insecurity and, with each other, we can hopefully change the way we view beauty and ourselves. 

We believe the media can be used for good but in this day and age the majority of what is being produced isn't cutting it. Women of all ages, types, size, and color need to speak up and share their stories. After watching our documentary, we hope it will spark much needed conversation about these issues and empower women to stand up and fight for change - change in the way the media portrays women and beauty. We hope that after watching our documentary everyone will view the media in a different light and see it for what it really is: False Advertising.

Jen, Avery, and Michelle explain why this project is so important to them. 

Jen: This project means a lot to me. Like I said above, I have always felt alone in my feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. However, after interviewing these girls and hearing their stories I realize these feelings lie in everyone. Even though these girls come from all different backgrounds and walks of life, they still have similar answers to the questions. This isn't a coincidence. There is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed and continually talked about until it changes: the media. In order to do so, we need to stop blaming ourselves and start thinking critically about what we are receiving as truth. We need to share our stories and speak out against it in order to find freedom. This isn't just a documentary, it's a movement and that is why it means so much to me. The age at which girls are being affected by the media is getting younger and younger and I want them, as well as all girls, to know they aren't alone; that they don't have to resort to an eating disorder or self-harm or suicide. That there is help and there are people who can relate. What I love most about our documentary is what we have planned for the end. In the end we have advice from some of the girls on how to help combat the messages the media is sending. Since there isn't a direct solution to the problem, we thought advice would be best because it is encouraging and it reminds women that there is hope. The advice the girls give is unique and thoughtful, which will hopefully help many girls in the future. 

Avery: I think this project can be a really big stepping stone for women and girls all over. It is important that women are aware of these issues presented in the media. The media isn't often inclusive towards women of different shapes, colors, types and sizes. It is touching hearing all these women talk about how it has affected them personally. Everyone can easily relate more to a person telling a story rather than statistics. It is key to share these types of stories, which is what we are trying to do.

Michelle: I think that this project is incredibly important in that it can be a voice for people who are afraid to challenge the ideas that so heavily influence us. My personal favorite part of the project is that during the interviews with the girls we get a feel for who they are and are able to relate to the things they have gone through. Stories are so important. They help us connect to one another and let us relate to one another. They influence us and move us and can help shape us into who we are. They stick with us over the years, can make us cry or laugh and feel the things that sometimes we need to feel. Hearing these girls share personal experiences help us get to know them in a way and make us feel that we aren't alone in issues that we all struggle with and face. I think that that is what touches me the most about this project. I'm so honored to be a part of it!

False Advertising will be available on YouTube and Vimeo with a tentative release date of April 2013. 

They will be launching a Kickstarter on Friday, March 1, 2013. You can learn more about what it is and why they need YOUR help to accomplish their goal: www.kickstarter.com/projects/falseadvertising

link becomes active March 1st

You can find False Advertising/Jam Films on Facebook, and  Twitter

Be sure to check out this segment of emPOWERme.tv  where Jen, Avery, and Michelle join the founder of Healthy is the New Skinny - Natural Models Management, Katie Halchishick [Willcox], model Danika Brysha and some of the girls from the documentary in a discussion concerning how the media impacts our perceptions of beauty, self-worth and what is considered "ideal" beauty in today's society.