Disclaimer: The movie trailer mentioned (and linked to) may be triggering to some viewers.
If you haven’t heard, Netflix just released the trailer ‘To the Bone,’ a movie about a girl (Lily Collins) who has anorexia. Tons of emotions come up when I, personally, and probably many other people in recovery as well, hear anything about mental illnesses, especially an eating disorder. Eating disorders are often uncomfortable to talk about, so for Lily Collins and the writer/ director, Marti Noxon, to make a movie about it is extremely brave and ambitious. I will give Collins and Noxon that.
When I was deep into my eating disorder, I heard that this movie was coming out in 2017 and I could not wait. A movie about anorexia? Score! I could use the main character as thinspiration, and I could possibly learn new tips on how to ‘be more anorexic.’ Crazy, right? But that’s what I thought back then, and I am positive many other vulnerable people do as well.
Even now, when I am in recovery, watching the trailer was significantly triggering. Now, people often say: ‘If you think a movie will trigger you, then just don’t watch it!’. Simple, right? Just don’t watch it. Well, easier said than done. Many people, who are partially in recovery, will likely be intrigued by the title and just automatically click on it. Once they realize what it is, they will not be able to stop watching it. Also, many children and teens, who could possibly be heading towards an eating disorder path, will watch this movie and use it as “motivation” or as thinspiration. I realize that anything could be triggering, but I just hope that at the very least, Netflix adds a trigger warning to the film. With that, I know my personal limits, and know I will not be watching this movie.
Interesting fact: Both Lily Collins and Marti Noxon have previously suffered from an eating disorder. This hopefully means that the storyline will be more accurate, and will not glorify eating disorders. However, what I find shocking and actually ridiculous is that Collins willingly agreed to lose a significant amount of weight to play the role, when she was already skinny. Collins stated that she was supervised by professional nutritionists to make sure she lost weight the ‘healthy’ way, but how can you lose that much weight and be classified as severely ‘underweight’ and still be considered ‘healthy’? The answer: You cannot! Since Collins previously suffered form an eating disorder, this is especially concerning as losing large amounts of weight, when in recovery from eating disorder, can send the brain into a dangerous place.
As many recovery activists point out, eating disorders are not just about weight. People at any weight can be affected by an eating disorder. But yet, here we are, seeing Collins drop to a dangerous weight to convey the character. How is this awareness? This just automatically tells people that you have to lose a significant amount of weight and be dangerously underweight in order to be considered sick enough with an eating disorder.
Many people believe that this movie will bring awareness on this serious topic. Yes, that is true, however, it will not show that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. People affected by anorexia do not necessarily have to be emaciated, but this film seems to be upholding that stereotype. If we are going to raise awareness on eating disorders, we need to break the stereotype that the media portrays—a white, upper-middle class, skinny, cis-woman. This image definitely makes people with eating disorders, who do not meet the stereotype, feel like they cannot ask for help. They feel like they do not have an eating disorder, because they are not emaciated, or that they are male, or that they are a different race, etc.
Of course, seeing ‘To The Bone’ is ultimately your choice. I know that it is just a movie and its objective is to get views. As with any movie, not everyone will be happy with the film, especially those that are trying to raise awareness about mental illness. And like with any film, it won’t be perfect and suit everyone’s liking.
Yet, I think it is important to point out what was problematic about the making of the film. It is extremely triggering and it sends the wrong message that you must look a certain way (emaciated) to have an eating disorder.
So for those of you, who are in recovery from an eating disorder, I would like to ask you, before you view this film, to check your mental state and ask yourself “Will this harm me in any way?” and go from there.