Lens Distortion: Documentaries on Media Influence

Documentary titles about the ethics and effects of the imagery used in advertising and entertainment. Topics include beauty standards, body image, gender representation, racial stereotypes, sexism and sexualization.

List order is from newest to oldest (by year of release), and titles are sorted alphabetically within each year.

Related lists:
Woman's Work: Feminist Documentaries
Cinema Looks at Itself: Both Sides of the Screen
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1.
Gaze of the Beholder (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Beauty lacks a clear standard, yet most of us seem to know it when we encounter it. This documentary explores our shared dance with beauty... (112 mins.)
Director: Wadooah Wali
 
2.
The Mask You Live In (2015 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Explores how our culture's narrow definition of masculinity is harming our boys, men and society at large and unveils what we can do about it. (97 mins.)
 
3.
The Illusionists (2015 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
A documentary about the commodification of the body and the marketing of unattainable beauty around the world. (91 mins.)
Director: Elena Rossini
 
4.
Ageless (2014 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Each day women receive messages from the media that they are not young enough, sexy enough or good enough... (27 mins.)
 
5.
Are All Men Pedophiles? (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  
What is the difference between us and pedophiles? (70 mins.)
 
6.
CinemAbility (2013 Documentary)
This documentary examines the ever-changing portrayals of disability story lines in film, TV and the web to see if the media has had a hand in transforming the societal inclusion of people with disabilities. (98 mins.)
Director: Jenni Gold
 
7.
A Girl and a Gun (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
Reaching far beyond Hollywood's hypersexualized femme fatales, the film candidly explores the modern... (76 mins.)
Director: Cathryne Czubek
 
8.
How to Lose Your Virginity (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
It has launched both purity balls and porn franchises, defines a young woman's morality-but has no medical definition... (67 mins.)
 
9.
Latinos Beyond Reel (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
In Latinos Beyond Reel, filmmakers Miguel Picker and Chyng Sun examine how US news and entertainment media portray -- and do not portray -- Latinos. (75 mins.)
 
10.
On Beauty (2014 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
ON BEAUTY follows fashion photographer Rick Guidotti, who left the fashion world when he grew frustrated with having to work within the restrictive parameters of the industry's standard of beauty. (31 mins.)
Director: Joanna Rudnick
 
11.
Peddling Influence (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Does our country have a Free Press? In a nation where deceit has become the norm, should we not expect the truth from our mainstream media... (90 mins.)
Director: William Lewis
 
12.
Typecast (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
TYPECAST examines stereotypes in Hollywood involving weight, age, sex, height, hair color, race, and body augmentation. (120 mins.)
 
13.
Flirting with Danger (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Psychologist Lynn Phillips explores how young women navigate heterosexual relationships and hookups in a culture that sends conflicting messages about women's sexuality, consent, and coercion. (52 mins.)
 
14.
Hoodwinked (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Hoodwinked is an exploration of the most recent data being released by the US Census, DOJ, DOE, DOC... (87 mins.)
Director: Janks Morton
 
15.
In Our Heads About Our Hair (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 9.1/10 X  
A documentary that examines with candor and humor Black women's issues regarding hair and self-esteem, and advocates for the acceptance of all hairstyle choices. (78 mins.)
Director: Hemamset Angaza
 
16.
Pretty Boys (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Asian males in mainstream movies and television are often portrayed as effeminate or asexual, being robbed of their manhood... (33 mins.)
Director: Seong Jae Min
 
17.
Sexy Baby (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
An ex adult film star, a 12 year old girl and a 22 year old who yearns for "normal" private parts are chronicled in this thought provoking doc about how porn, social media and pop culture affect women and girls. A FilmBuff Presentation. (84 mins.)
 
18.
Valentino's Ghost (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The documentary exposes the ways in which America's foreign policy agenda in the Middle East drives the U.S... (93 mins.)
Director: Michael Singh
 
19.
America the Beautiful 2: The Thin Commandments (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  
Award-winning filmmaker Darryl Roberts' takes us into America's dieting craze and its insidious use of BMI and into the lives of industry leaders and icons like Deepak Chopra. (100 mins.)
Director: Darryl Roberts
 
20.
The Bro Code: How Contemporary Culture Creates Sexist Men (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
The film examines the ways in which media and popular culture trains American boys and men to adopt and celebrate sexist views toward women.
Director: Thomas Keith
 
21.
Dark Girls (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Documentary exploring the deep-seated biases and attitudes about skin color---particularly dark skinned women, outside of and within the Black American culture. (71 mins.)
 
22.
Miss Representation (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Explores the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America, and challenges the media's limited portrayal of what it means to be a powerful woman. (85 mins.)
 
23.
The Purity Myth (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Bestselling author Jessica Valenti places recent debates about Planned Parenthood, contraception, and the meaning of rape within the context of a larger political effort to roll back women's rights. (45 mins.)
 
24.
The Class Project: Social Class in American Pop Culture (2010 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
What is more powerful than 'the media?' What has more influence over your life than popular culture... (101 mins.)
Director: Eddie Laury
 
25.
The Codes of Gender (2010 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
(46 mins.)
Director: Sut Jhally
 
26.
Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising's Image of Women (2010 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Jean Kilbourne discusses the representation of women in advertisements.
Director: Sut Jhally
 
27.
My Nappy Roots: A Journey Through Black Hair-itage (2010 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
"My Nappy Roots" explores the politics, culture and history of African American hair. Is there such a thing as "Good and Bad" hair... (90 mins.)
 
28.
Good Hair (2009 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Chris Rock explores the wonders of African-American hairstyles. (96 mins.)
Director: Jeff Stilson
 
29.
It's a Teen's World: Wired for Sex, Lies and Power Trips (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
(75 mins.)
Director: Lynn Glazier
 
30.
Laboring Under an Illusion: Mass Media Childbirth vs. The Real Thing (2009 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
100 video clips contrast real and fictional birth scenes, from the silly to the sublime. Anthropologist... (50 mins.)
Director: Vicki Elson
 
31.
Reel Injun (2009 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
The history of the depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood films. (85 mins.)
 
32.
Starsuckers (2009 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Documentary that explores mankind's desire to be famous and its effect on society. (103 mins.)
Director: Chris Atkins
 
33.
Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up (2009 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A powerful documentary about the lives of teens and young adults as seen through the gender lens. Approaching... (67 mins.)
Director: Debra Chasnoff
 
34.
Beauty: In the Eyes of the Beheld (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
What draws together a physician, an exotic dancer, a pageant queen, a legal assistant, an entrepreneur... (55 mins.)
 
35.
Beauty Mark (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Beauty Mark is for anyone who has ever felt invisible because they didn't conform to our culture's impossible... (50 mins.)
 
36.
Beyond Wiseguys: Italian Americans & the Movies (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Documentary portrays the saga of how Italian Americans went from being outsiders who were stereotyped...
Director: Steven Fischler
 
37.
Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
An examination of America's win-at-all-cost culture from the perspective of bodybuilding and performance enhancing drugs, as it focuses on a pair of siblings chasing their dream. (105 mins.)
Director: Chris Bell
 
38.
Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Consuming Kids throws desperately needed light on the practices of a relentless multi-billion dollar... (66 mins.)
 
39.
Cover Girl Culture: Awakening the Media Generation (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A former Elite model reveals how the worlds of fashion, advertising and celebrity impact teens and young women... (80 mins.)
Director: Nicole Clark
 
40.
The Price of Pleasure: Pornography, Sexuality & Relationships (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  
Examines the unprecedented role that commercial pornography occupies in American popular culture. The film explores what happens when images of sexual degradation are used for arousal. (55 mins.)
 
41.
America the Beautiful (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
In a society where "celebutantes" like Paris Hilton dominate newsstands and models who weigh less than 90 pounds die from malnutrition... (105 mins.)
Director: Darryl Roberts
 
42.
Made Over in America (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Made Over in America is a filmic foray into the cultural complex surrounding America's fascination with surgical makeover... (65 mins.)
 
43.
Body Image (2006 TV Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Having come to terms with the size of his own 3.5 inch erect penis on My Penis and I, Lawrence Barraclough follows it up by turning his attention to how other men feel about the size of their penises.
Director: Kerry Brierley
 
44.
Never Perfect (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Explores the complex journey of a young Vietnamese-American woman's struggle with popular perceptions of beauty and body image as she fights the stigma of racial self-hatred in her decision to undergo cosmetic surgery. (64 mins.)
Director: Regina Park
 
45.
Further Off the Straight and Narrow (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  
Takes a close look at sitcoms, reality shows, and premium cable programming as it explores how representations of GLBT characters have become more complex and varied in recent years. (61 mins.)
 
46.
Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes provides a riveting examination of manhood, sexism, and homophobia in hip-hop culture. (61 mins.)
Director: Byron Hurt
 
47.
Overexposed (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Do sexualized mass media and pornography affect men's ability to be intimate? Does it affect their expectations of women... (25 mins.)
Director: Gregg Helvey
 
48.
Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
This groundbreaking documentary dissects a slanderous aspect of cinematic history that has run virtually... (50 mins.)
 
49.
The Slanted Screen (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
From silent film star Sessue Hayakawa to Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle, the Slanted Screen examines... (60 mins.)
Director: Jeff Adachi
 
50.
Class Dismissed: How TV Frames the Working Class (2005 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Based on the forthcoming book by Pepi Leistyna, Class Dismissed navigates the steady stream of narrow... (62 mins.)
Director: Loretta Alper
 
51.
My Penis and I (2005 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
Lawrence Barraclough's quest to find out whether a small penis matters. (57 mins.)
 
52.
Shredded (2005 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
(22 mins.)
 
53.
Busting Out (2004 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  
BUSTING OUT will challenge how you think about breasts. Filmmaker Francine Strickwerda lost her mother to breast cancer as a child... (57 mins.)
Stars: Tom Leykis
 
54.
In the Company of Women (2004 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
A documentary on the influence of women in independent film over the last two decades. (90 mins.)
 
55.
Wet Dreams and False Images (2004 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Dee-Dee the barber is a self-proclaimed "booty expert," who covers his wall with magazine cut-outs of women. But when Dee-Dee is introduced to the art of media manipulation he may never look at beauty the same way again.
Director: Jesse Epstein
 
57.
Beauty in a Jar (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
(120 mins.)
 
58.
Casting Calls (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
(46 mins.)
Director: Lauren Cardillo
 
59.
Images of Indians: How Hollywood Stereotyped the Native American (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Hollywood's depiction of Native Americans in Western films is traced through interviews and archive footage. (25 mins.)
 
60.
Frontline (1983 TV Series)
Episode: The Merchants of Cool (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
How businesses market to American teenagers, and the effect they have together on popular culture. (60 mins.)
 
61.
Beyond Killing Us Softly (2000 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
A documentary about the fight against the toxic, violent and degrading messages to girls and women in the media... (30 mins.)
 
62.
The Commercial Closet (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Survey of over 50 commercials with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender themes from brands that include 7Up... (90 mins.)
Director: Michael Wilke
 
63.
Killing Us Softly 3 (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Jean Kilbourne's pioneering work helped develop and popularize the study of gender representation in advertising... (34 mins.)
Director: Sut Jhally
 
64.
Off the Straight and Narrow (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
A look at TV since the 1960's shows that Gays and Lesbians have come a long way but still have a long ways to go to a balanced and realistic depiction on television. (63 mins.)
 
65.
Private Dicks: Men Exposed (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  
Men, most of them naked, talk about their penises. The men range from 17 to 70+, all are from the U.S... (56 mins.)
 
66.
Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Tough Guise systematically examines the relationship between pop-cultural imagery and the social construction of masculine identities in the U.S. at the dawn of the 21st century. (82 mins.)
Director: Sut Jhally
 
67.
Advertising and the End of the World (1998 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
(60 mins.)
Director: Sut Jhally
 
68.
Classified X (1998 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A history of the racially stereotyped portrayal of African Americans in cinema. (53 mins.)
Director: Mark Daniels
 
70.
Gracious Curves (1997 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
A fluid documentary in which director Luostarinen interviews fifty women on birth, body image, and the... (52 mins.)
 
71.
Breasts: A Documentary (1996 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Twenty-two women (ranging in age from 11 to 84), with 41 breasts, talk about their breasts; most are topless as they speak... (50 mins.)
Director: Meema Spadola
 
72.
The Celluloid Closet (1995 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A documentary surveying the various Hollywood screen depictions of homosexuals and the attitudes behind them throughout the history of North American film. (102 mins.)
 
73.
Homeward Bound (1994 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
Documentary about how families are portrayed in American cinema through-out history. (60 mins.)
Director: Linda Schaffer
 
74.
The Smell of Burning Ants (1994 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A haunting documentary on the pains of growing up male. It explores the inner and outer cruelties that boys perpetrate and endure. The film provokes the viewer to reflect on how our society can deprive boys of wholeness. (21 mins.)
Director: Jay Rosenblatt
 
75.
Color Adjustment (1992 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Analyzes the evolution of television's earlier, unflattering portrayal of blacks from 1948 until 1988... (86 mins.)
Director: Marlon T. Riggs
 
76.
The Famine Within (1990 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Documents the contemporary obsession with an unrealistic body size and shape among North American women and the eating disorders it engenders. (90 mins.)
 
77.
Slaying the Dragon (1988 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
A highly critical documentary about the history of Asian-American actresses in Hollywood. Features interviews... (58 mins.)
Director: Deborah Gee
 
78.
Still Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women (1987 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
An examination of the various sexist elements in modern advertising. (30 mins.)
 
79.
Ethnic Notions (1986 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
This documentary traces the deep-rooted stereotypes which have fueled anti-black prejudice. (57 mins.)
Director: Marlon Riggs
 
80.
Killing Us Softly (1979 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
(30 mins.)