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’.
‘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 too light-hearted in its representation of a debilitating and deadly illness. It contains too many destructive behaviours. It’s too detailed in its depiction of calorie counting and food avoidance behaviours. It 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.
What was even more shocking was how the dangers of this process and whether they would physically or psychologically affect Collins, were not addressed. 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.
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. To finish the post, here are some anonymised quotes from people who are currently suffering from eating disorders. This shows you exactly what is wrong with this film and why I will not be recommending it to anyone, ever.
“It’s exactly the sort of thing I was drawn to when I was really, really sick – all those horrible movies and ED books and thinspo sites that give tips and tricks to the vulnerable. Not good.”
“This movie is irresponsible, at best. It’s perpetuating stereotypes that make seeking and accepting treatment much more difficult. Time for a Netflix hiatus.”
“Ever since I saw the trailer, I’ve struggled more. I think what bugs me the most is knowing that the actress has had issues herself. Yet, they made her lose weight for the role. Some articles say she had to “relive anorexia.” Disgusting. I keep reading she lost weight in a healthy way and had a dietician, but her weight is anything but healthy. It’s triggered me into thinking that if she can be that size and it’s healthy, then…why can’t I? Also, if you look at her social media pages, young girls are asking her how she stays so small and saying they want to be like her.”
UK Helpful Numbers:
B-eat Eating Disorder Adult Helpline: 0345 634 1414
Mind: 0300 123 3393
Samaritans: 116 123
National Centre for Eating Disorders: 0845 838 2040
SEED: 01482 718130