July 14, 2017, 8:48 p.m.
Recently, NEDIC has viewed the trailer for NETFLIX’s new movie To the Bone. While we haven’t yet seen the movie, we have received a number of calls from the media and others, and would like to address some of these concerns.
Eating Disorders- One Size DOESN’T Fit All
In all that NEDIC believes and works towards, increasing awareness of eating disorders and their very debilitating and harmful effects is at its core. As presented in the very short, but intense trailer, To the Bone stars Lily Collins, appearing as a white, frail young woman dealing with Anorexia. Fearing that this image perpetuates the stereotype that you can only have an eating disorder, specifically Anorexia, if you fit this typecast look, NEDIC wants to encourage readers and viewers to understand that eating disorders affect people from all backgrounds – ethnicity, gender, and size included. Having the message out there and being able to raise awareness of eating disorders is incredible – the film has the ability to heighten the exposure of eating disorders and shed light on a perspective that could resonate with audience members everywhere. Though NEDIC hopes the film delivers a diverse perspective, we fear that it may be more counterproductive and harmful to portray eating disorders as they are stereotypically perceived.
Eating Disorders Are Not Glamourous
In fact, they have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric illnesses. Eating disorders can affect all aspects of a person’s life and have a devastating impact on them and their loved ones. Currently, we know that between 660 000 and 990 000 Canadians are currently struggling with an eating disorder. Sufferers are often struggling in silence and do not have access to resources, treatment or hope for recovery.
Eating Disorders Are Serious Illnesses
Eating disorders do not equate to a diet gone too far, and individuals who are suffering with their effects are not doing so by choice. Eating disorders are serious illnesses affecting far many people – more than society and media sometimes acknowledge and address appropriately. This lack of understanding can have serious health implications, and it is concerning that Lily Collins, who has lived experience with an eating disorder, may have been asked to lose weight for the role. Whether Lily Collins was asked to lose weight for her role in To the Bone or she chose to do so on her own, there is a great deal of danger in having her in a position that could compromise her own health, yet again, and threaten her own recovery. NEDIC commends Collins for taking on that role and acting with her own past as inspiration. That being said, there are many different things that an actor or actress can physically change about themselves to embrace the character they’ve been prescribed. But losing a significant amount of weight does not fall in line with changing your hair colour, wearing contacts or prosthetics, etc., especially for an actress having struggled with Anorexia in the past. NEDIC fears that Collins’ justification for losing the weight will make the dramatic change more acceptable. NEDIC wants to emphasize that the emotional and psychological changes that could have very well been experienced by Collins don’t cease to exist just because there are attempts to justify that weight loss.
Always Question the Media - Promoting Critical Media Literacy
One of the things we promote at NEDIC, especially when working with young people, is critical media literacy: learning to read between the lines and interpret the messages we are viewing.
When watching any movie, including To the Bone, it is important to remember that it is a single production that is not meant to reflect the experiences of all people. Many of the behaviours shown in the trailer, such as dieting and calorie counting, may be triggering and harmful to someone struggling with an eating disorder and food and weight preoccupation. If you are in recovery, it is important to watch with caution or forego watching the movie entirely.
While there are many concerns about To the Bone, we hope that the series helps to elevate the conversation about eating disorders, resulting in more awareness and ultimately, action. The eating disorder community is in desperate need of more funding, research, treatment, understanding and hope for positive change. We hope that the film can influence change in the right direction and ultimately, impact the lives of many Canadians who are affected by these devastating illnesses.
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