Shows discussing anorexia and bulimia have been around for years. I remember watching them when I was young. And now, it’s the trending Netflix movie, To The Bone, that’s caught the attention of the kids.
The movie is about a young girl, Ellen, who struggles with her eating disorder, personal relationships, and attempts to move towards recovery. When it came out in July 2017, there was a lot of hype saying that it glorifies and promotes anorexia.
To The Bone, is aimed at a young audience that perhaps doesn’t have the sophistication to see how shallow and insipid the portrayal of Ellen is and how none of the difficult questions were asked. It is shock entertainment and totally glosses over the reality of secrecy, isolation and causation. I found it disturbing and unrealistic that the girl talks openly about her eating disorder, treats it like a game and finds a boyfriend while in treatment.
Ellen goes to a rehab house with other young people and the idea is that they’ll work together with their handsome Dr. (Keanu Reeves), to fix all their problems. It’s very Utopian and I can see how it would be captivating to young viewers. It’s presented like an adventure and could be construed as romantic, magical or as an educational starting block for some to make dangerous choices.
We see the characters compulsive drive for physical activity or calorie burns. It could be sit ups, running stairs, jogging…anything and everything that’ll keep the numbers on the scales moving down. Throughout, Ellen is also constantly ensuring herself that she can ring her fingers around her upper arm. A measurement of success.
To The Bone introduces the skewed relationship between the individual and food. The first is the chewing and spitting. This is when food is chewed and then spit into a bag because swallowing would introduce calories into the body. This is a way of purging without full consumption. Other things that are looked at are the compelling need to know the nutritional information of every food, how many calories burned with an activity, to have discretion over food by cutting it into tiny pieces, refusing to eat, or munching exclusively on low calorie foods like lettuce.
Though the movie isn’t going to win any awards, it brought the matter back to the forefront. Control (or lack there of), anxiety and a drive for perfection may push some young viewers over the brink. A skewed self image and larger emotional problems can kill a healthy future.
The character refers to an anorexic as “a Rexy”. Here are a few other terms to listen for.
A person referring to themselves as a Rex or Rexy or being part of a Rex Club, should set off the bells and whistles. Listen for the use of names like Ana (anorexia), Mia (bulimia) and Ed (eating disorder), in an endearing and familiar way especially if accompanied by unexplained or sudden weight loss. If someone says they’re going to hang out with Mia, Ed, and Ana, then some questions may need to be asked. Pro-Ana (promote anorexia) groups are rampant on the net. The kids know them, you should too.
If you have a young person (remember, eating disorders are not exclusive to girls), who’s experiencing stress involving food, diet, self image, self esteem, etc. and may be on the edge, then To The Bone could absolutely have a negative influence.
Parents/Aunties/Adults watch the kids. Kids watch your friends. This isn’t something to fool around with.
Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. Comments? suggestions? please message to fayeearcand.com or email@example.com
*Published by Black Press