bad “to the bone”

We’ve watched the trailer of the upcoming Netflix film “To the Bone” multiple times now. We’ve talked about it ad nauseum. We’re both angry and sick to our stomachs.

This film isn’t simple. Lily Collins, who struggled with an eating disorder in real life, claims to be recovered, however, lost weight for this role, a role that truthfully, didn’t require her to lose weight. The title itself, “To the Bone,” like many other parts of the trailer, continues to reinforce the dangerous stereotype that you have to be emaciated to be ill with an eating disorder. By the mere fact that Lily Collins claims to be “recovered” yet lost weight for this film, romanticizes the idea that you can choose to have an eating disorder or not. But to clarify: MENTAL ILLNESS IS NOT A CHOICE.

Not shockingly, the media has chosen to once again glamorize anorexia as the gold standard of an eating disorder portrayed by an already beautiful, thin, white, cisgender, able-bodied woman. While, yes, I am in recovery from anorexia, I still constantly question why anorexia has to be the only way we portray eating disorders? There is not a certain “look” to an eating disorder and why are we continuously failing to center the stories of marginalized individuals with eating disorders?

As our wonderful friend exclaimed, why does it take a more visually culturally accepted stereotype to play a scripted role in order to engage the public in a dialogue on eating disorders? There are so many people missing from this conversation. So many stories left out of people who deserve to be heard and be a part of this conversation. There needs to be a greater representation of the diversity that exists in order to fight for inclusive and accessible treatment for all.

The person that Lily Collins portrays is someone’s story, someone’s memoir, but this is the memoir that is told all too often that it has become the Singular Story. If the media continues to show a homogenized image of what someone with an eating disorder looks like, stereotypes will continue, people will not seek treatment, and more lives will be lost to the mental illness with the highest death rate.

Despite the repetition of the word “funny” used as a testimonial of the film, nothing about eating disorders is funny. While humor can be helpful at times in recovery, I think describing this film as such, makes eating disorders out to be something we can laugh about. It hurts me to think about others viewing a story of this illness as ‘funny’, when it has caused so much pain.

With this said, this film is not fully to blame as it is part of a larger social context in which all of this is normalized. This is a larger issue of media literacy, visibility, and representation. Visibility is essential, yes, but it has to be productive. It is not true that any visibility is better than none.

To us, this movie is pointless, if not pernicious. It’s detrimental, regressive and capitalizes on society’s need for glamorized voyeurism in the media. There needs to be backlash. Now, more than ever we need to hear more stories and more voices of recovery, especially from those who are marginalized.

We will not be watching this film. For now we’ll continue writing Our Story and sharing Our Voice. [end rant]

in strength and healing and love and support,

OJ and CJ

bad “to the bone”

2 thoughts on “bad “to the bone”

  • June 22, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    You are right that we shouldn’t be surprised: this is the usual narrative and the public isn’t aware that there are other ones. We need to create, promote, fund, and WATCH new and diverse narratives and diagnoses and bodies.

    My husband had the most useful analogy, this morning, on the topic of the actor’s “supervised” weight loss, and how we ought to frame that. He asked what we’d do if a film raising awareness about endangered elephants deliberately maimed one elephant for the filming. I don’t think anyone would be calling it awareness, or dismissing it. “Supervised” weight loss of someone who has suffered from an eating disorder should be met with horror and alarm. If an actor wanted to portray their struggle with heroin addiction we wouldn’t find it unremarkable that the filmmakers sanctioned their taking heroin during filming. We wouldn’t put someone into a diabetic coma to illustrate the dangers of diabetes.

    So, keep on telling your stories, and let’s get some more narratives out there!

    • June 22, 2017 at 3:06 pm

      Laura – this is so true! those are really great analogies as to why this whole phenomenon feels so “icky” and problematic. I can’t help but think of ethical standards within the medical field also. How could it possibly be ethical of her doctor and nutritionist to allow this to allow her to lose a significant amt of weight to where she represents someone who looks “sick”. There is no way you can lose weight “healthily” after recovering from an eating disorder especially when weight loss leads you to an unhealthy weight. Thanks for reading and for your brilliant insight as always!


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