Bionic Beauty Salon

“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”.

-Jaiva Larsen, age 14



“You can have a great personality, but if you’re fat, it’s like you’re half a person”.

-Debby Soo, age 14



Bionic Beauty Salon addresses the insecurities in women of all ages who learn to place their self-worth in the measure of their beauty. Six teenaged commentators, the film’s only experts, plainly recognize the shortcomings of our culture’s offerings to them about who they are and what they can be – and reclaim their identities for themselves. 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.


“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

“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


Bionic Beauty Salon can be rented or purchased from New Day Films