Disclaimer: This post contains triggering subjects, mainly anorexia. If this bothers you, I urge you not to continue reading, because I – in no shape, way, or form – intend on harming any of my readers. If you are personally going through any psychological problem(s) or if you know someone who is going through these difficulties, please seek help at your local psychiatrist, psychotherapist, psychologist or a local non-governmental organisation. There is always someone that you can talk to who will listen. I will include some important numbers at the end of the post.
Netflix’s newest controversial creation is ‘To The Bone’, a film about a recovering anorexic called Ellen. Upon the release of the trailer, the internet immediately fought back, with many survivors calling its representation of the disorder ‘irresponsible’. After seeing all the uproar, and having experience with the topic myself, I decided to watch To The Bone to see what I thought.
To The Bone is much like 13 Reasons Why, another controversial and largely disliked series which focuses on teen suicide. They are similar in the sense that they aimed to do well, to spread awareness and open discussions on difficult topics. And you can argue that this has happened, but personally I believe it is done in the wrong way.
To The Bone is much too light-hearted in its representation of a debilitating and deadly illness. It portrays anorexia and eating disorders as a seemingly normal part of teenage life – which is most certainly is not. It contains too many destructive behaviours which are shown without warning, and in an explicit manner that would of course be triggering for anyone watching. It’s too detailed in its depiction of calorie counting and food avoidance behaviours. For me, To The Bone felt too much like watching a manual on how to be a successful anorexic. And on top of all of this, lead actress Lily Collins became severely underweight for this role, despite being an anorexia survivor herself, which is all kinds of wrong.
What was even more shocking were the dangers of this process and whether they would physically or psychologically affect Collins. Did she have a choice in changing her appearance for the role, or was this demanded of her despite her experience with the illness? Was she cast because of her experience, and was she looked after?
In addition, Noxon, To The Bone’s director, is also a previous survivor, and in some interviews states that she faced difficulty and was triggered several times while filming certain scenes from the movie. And that is where I (and many others) have a real problem. It pains me to think of the detrimental harm that the creation of this film had on Collins and her own personal recovery, and it angers me that as a director, Noxon continued with the production of this film even though she felt first-hand the negative effect it would inevitably have on vulnerable people.
As well as all of these issues of representation, the script itself is poorly written and tries far too hard to capture a young teenage audience. It doesn’t seem to want to tackle the hard issue at hand, preferring to present the story in a very stereotypical and basic manner. It plays out very much like ‘Here is Ellen. She is anorexic. She is refusing the help that she needs. She finds some unrealistic inspiration. She is better.’ It doesn’t address anorexia as an issue, it doesn’t provide any help or guidance to those watching who may be suffering or in recovery, and it certainly doesn’t show any progression to a life after recovery.
I could go on about how damaging this film is for hours. It is an unrealistic representation of life with anorexia. It is harmful to both the people involved in the production and virtually anyone watching who has any connection to restricted eating behaviours.
Have you watched To The Bone on Netflix? What was your opinion?