HBO Max Docuseries on the dangers of beauty – The Hollywood Reporter

As soon as I finished watching HBO Max Not that cute, I went straight to my vanity and pulled out my phone. I downloaded the apps suggested by the series and searched for the ingredients of my most used beauty products; I googled Johnson’s baby asbestos powder lawsuit and the Safer Beauty bill package.

The fact that I felt curious enough to do all of these things clearly speaks to the success of the docuseries in its primary goal of conveying information and stimulating action. Not that cute it won’t be the funniest documentary you’ve ever seen, neither the most artistic nor the most moving, even if it’s at least entertaining, artistic, and heartwarming enough to engage the viewer. But it’s valuable as the start of a broader conversation about the hidden dangers of the beauty industry, for both consumers and viewers.

Not that cute

The bottom line

Subtle but effective.

Each of the four episodes directed by Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick focuses on a different sector of the industry: hair, nails, skin and makeup, in that order. At about half an hour each, no one is long enough to really delve into the topics they are covering. However, Ziering and Dick make efficient use of the time they have, weaving scientific information, personal stories, and cultural context into easily digestible narratives about the ugly side of beauty.

“Hair,” for example, is built largely around recent complaints about DevaCurl (a line of Holy Grail products previously loved by customers with curly hair) that it causes rashes, hair loss and other health problems. In interviews, scientists patiently explain the agents that release formaldehyde in hair products and the damage they can cause, while advocates and analysts discuss the lack of effective regulations requiring companies to actually test their hair products for safety, or to recall their products once they have proved dangerous.

Meanwhile, the episode also magnifies the stories of individuals affected by DevaCurl’s seemingly caustic formulations – such as Ayesha Malik, an influencer whose video about her experiences with the brand has raised the awareness of thousands of other users – and shrinks to touch. the broader history of black hair in America dating back to slavery. This includes the pressure black women and other curly haired women still feel to conform to a Eurocentric beauty standard that considers straight hair to be the desirable norm.

Likewise, “Nails” comes into personal contact with an epidemiologist whose research on the chemicals in nail polish was inspired by her mother’s cancer, which is believed to have been caused by her exposure to those substances during her work in beauty salon – and also sums up how Tippi Hedren launched the boom of Vietnamese beauty salons in America, thus offering both an extensive history of the nail industry and a first-hand one.

“Skin” and “Makeup” highlight, among other things, the dirty tricks used by the industry to circumvent existing regulations, to avoid legal consequences or to defend against years of research demonstrating the damage their products can cause: for For example, the “fragrance” often listed in ingredients can contain any number of chemicals, including chemicals that the product explicitly claims it does not contain, because the specific formulation of a fragrance is considered a trade secret.

The revelations contained in Not that cute it can be creepy, and the real-life anecdotes used to illustrate them are devastating. But the docuserie stubbornly resists the helplessness or despair that can come with such a deluge of bad news, focusing instead on what viewers candies Do this by ending each episode with an ordered list of “do’s and don’ts” (e.g., usable items): avoid these types of plastics, look for nail polish free of such chemicals, sign this petition, and don’t forget to contact to his congressman about that bill.

This basic format, combined with Keke Palmer’s sunny but somewhat rigid storytelling, can do Not that cute it feels less like a TV episode than an extended, refined and simplistic and a little cheesy PSA. (“Sometimes, all this makeup can do things to us that aren’t that good” is a peculiar lament, even if that’s the line that gives the series its title.) And compared to Ziering and Dick’s other Crusader works, like Allen versus Farrow or On the record, Not that cute he feels less intimate and intense, not because his stories are necessarily less sad or important, but because he doesn’t delve as deeply into them.

But seen as a way to get into a topic too few viewers know about, Not that cuteThe small episodes, the relatively light tone, and the shallow but extensive explorations could reasonably be considered a feature, not a bug. The qualities that keep the series from sounding as heavy as it possibly could be are the same ones that make it easy to binge on and the same ones that keep it moving on a wide range of topics while presenting enough detail to make you want to dig for more. If my immediate urge to take stock of my daily skincare routine is any indication, it does exactly what it sets out to do.

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