Issues with Movies about Eating Disorders

rNZ1dU84aXnM770FuVgeDkc5yf5_4Hey loves,

Today, I wanted to talk about some of the problems I find in movies about eating disorders. Enjoy!

A few days ago, I was watching Starving in Suburbia while I was straightening my hair, and many questions about the movie came to my head. Now, this is certainly not the first time I’ve watched this movie. I’ve watched this film many times, but I’ve never thought about the film other than for entertainment purposes. I never noticed just how much of a terrible depiction of eating disorders this movie portrays.

For those of you that have not watched the film, it features a teenage girl that visits a thinspiration/pro-ana site and shortly after falls ill to an eating disorder (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified-EDNOS). The movie shows how Hannah (the main character) deteriorates after discovering the new site. The creator of the site pushes Hannah to starve herself and do what she says. This is who she calls “Ana.” “Ana” is an actual character in the who she meets at the end of the film.

Now, for entertainment purposes, the film is interesting. There are some intense scenes and a scary plot twist. It’s a Lifetime movie, so viewers pretty much know what to expect. If you love Lifetime or interested is this movie genre, then Starving in Suburbia has a lot to offer for you. However, in terms of realism and appropriate portrayals of eating disorders, the movie couldn’t be worse.

For starters, Hannah starts to develop an eating disorder directly the day after she visits the pro-ana site. Hannah has no real deterioration because she goes downhill at a lightening speed. One day she’s perfectly fine and happy and the next she’s starving herself and a total bitch. Also, the way in which the website controls her and ‘Ana’ dictates her entire life through messages is quite ridiculous. It’s flat out entirely inaccurate.

The inaccuracies in this film brought me to think about the many other films I’ve watched about eating disorders. I’m not saying that all films about eating disorders are horrible because they’re not, however, many of them use the same stereotypes that are inaccurate. Some of the common issues I’ve noticed with these films include:

tumblr_o0cmjsPnPN1tukhmoo2_500A fast downfall out of nowhere. I see this with so many movies about eating disorders. One day the teenage girl is fine and the next she’s anorexic. The developing of anorexia is cut short and it’s as if she is just given this mental illness out of nowhere. There’s very little story to their development.

 

Thinsporation stills Michael MoriatisA miraculous recovery. In almost all eating disorder movies, the patient recovers very quickly after she realizes what she’s doing to herself. It’s not a slow recovery at all, they just start eating again and go back to their ‘normal’ life after they realize their situation.

 

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The emphasis on being fat. Eating disorders and body image are completely related. Most people with an eating disorder do indeed suffer from a negative body image, however, this aspect is over-emphasized in films. There’s a ton of other issues that go into developing an eating disorder that movies seem to neglect.

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The same narrative. All eating disorder movies seem to be very similar: they’re all about a teenage white girl with perfect grades and a great personality who develops an eating disorder and pretty soon her life turns into a disaster. This leaves out so many people struggling with eating disorders: older folks, men, people of color, etc. Also, not everyone who has an eating disorder fits this narrative.

Now, not all movies about eating disorders show these stereotypes. I’ve seen some great movies about eating disorders that I would highly recommend. As a matter of fact, I recommend most for entertainment purposes. However, if you’re trying to learn about eating disorders and want more of real life situations, most movies won’t give you that.

Liz

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11 thoughts on “Issues with Movies about Eating Disorders

  1. “This leaves out so many people struggling with eating disorders: older folks, men, people of color, etc.”

    This. Eating disorders are portrayed as being a wealthy white girl problem so often, and while that demographic might make up a large portion of those diagnosed with EDs, it’s not all of us.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly! I think there’s a lot of stereotypes that surround eating disorders and this being labeled as a “rich white girl.” Many people don’t often understand that others who do not fit this category suffer from eating disorders as well. Sometimes people who are not part of this “rich white girl” stereotype may even feel scared to talk about their experience because of how people will react.

      Like

  2. Really glad you wrote about this, it’s so true as well. Also for once it would be good to actually see a movie about the different types of Eating Disorders too, not a lot of people are aware that there’s more than one and that it’s not JUST a body image issues it’s also comes from lots of other places

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly! There’s a big emphasis on bulimia and anorexia that many people think that those are the only two eating disorders. Another issue is the fact that many bulimics are actually at normal, and some even overweight, but in the movies they are stick thin. There’s just a lot if misrepresentations and under representations of eating disorders in the media.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Totally agree. I have found that a lot of those movies are actually triggers, for me anyways. Not that it glamorizes ED but in some movies it almost seems that you can be “anorexic”, or have an “eating disorder”, almost ruin your life and then like you said, recover miraculously. It doesn’t tell you that re wiring your brain, and the road to recovery is a long process. It is sad that its portrayed like this.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. when I was younger I used to watch a lot of movies about eating disorders as what people now call “thinspiration”. I have had an ED since I was 8 years old and every time I would watch these movies they would trigger me.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow thank you so much for sharing this with me! Such an eye-opening piece. I never once really thought about eating disorders and Islam. They are yet another group that Hollywood (and our society) decides to exclude in film. I really hope that blogs like this and stories like this can open people’s minds about eating disorders and show them that they are not the way Hollywood paints them to be. Everyone is different and everyone’s story is different. Once again, thank you for sharing this Maha.

      Liked by 1 person

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