Sundance Film Festival 2023: ‘Pretty Baby: Brook Shields’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Throughout the decades, there have been celebrities that rise above the rest. It’s almost impossible for some people to understand the phenomenon of certain starlets. Realistically, they’re just people at the end of the day. However, the media can manufacture one’s persona and dictate the narrative surrounding their star power. We’ve all seen how tabloids can break women down, and Brooke Shields was a victim of an entire takeover. She did not have agency because she was in the spotlight at such a young age, and everyone around her thought they knew what was best for her. Shields was overly sexualized at a young age, and it seemed that men did not know how to act around a young girl as a rising talent. 

Shields got into modelling at a very young age. And her mother became her manager. Her mother had so much faith in her daughter because she truly felt that God had blessed her with the most special child. Shields worked her way up and took all sorts of jobs to get into the spotlight. It was heartbreaking to see how everyone dictated this narrative that she was the most beautiful girl in the world at the age of 12 with no other interests other than beauty. Shields had to compartmentalize when she was young because of the comments made to her about the way she looked. She also did not have a mother to guide her through this misogynistic journey in an industry that exploits young women. 

To watch filmmakers, hosts and tabloids use her as this sex symbol at a young age should have concerned everyone. When Shields came up in the ‘70s, the sexual liberation of women was at an all-time high, and women were not conforming to societal standards. Men were outraged by this feminist movement and turned their eyes to younger women who aren’t fully developed intellectually, so they can easily be manipulated. What hurt the most throughout this two-part documentary was that Shields was not the person the media crafted for her. She was studious, intelligent, dorky, and fun. To hide that side of yourself because it’s not what the media wants can take a mental toll on anyone. Shields had a very rough childhood and adolescence because she had to take care of her mother (who was an alcoholic) and had to mature faster than others. 

Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields is a devastating documentary about how trusted people in the industry do not look after child stars. More importantly, this shows how damaging the entertainment industry can be toward women when they are put into inappropriate positions without being fully informed about situations. Shields is one of the strongest women in the industry to continue performing despite everything that has happened to her. It’s a disturbing look at how men perceive women. And how pedophilic comments were just accepted on national television by everyone. Director Lana Wilson also shows how times have changed and how widely unacceptable the mistreatment of Brooke Shields was then compared to now. 


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