‘To the Bone’ [film] – Poor information at best, dangerous commodification of eating disorders at worst

For the last 3-4 years, I’ve been acutely aware of media that surrounds eating disorders. I struggle to skip past the metro articles about bulimia on the train, my ears prick up during the news on EDAW and my Facebook newsfeed is usually fairly full of ED-related topics. I see repeated problematic themes that haven’t ceased to run through eating disorder media coverage and awareness week: the focus on the skinny, white girl, the ‘comparison’ pictures that pepper the media and make you feel like you’re scrolling through pro-ana sites and the absolute lack of political awareness or knowledge of the social sphere in which eating disorders exist. I actually thought I’d seen it all when it comes to poor attempts to ‘raise awareness’, but nothing could quite prepare me for the thinly-veiled anorexia porn that is ‘To the Bone’. Poised as a film created to highlight the horrors of existing with an eating disorder, the actors released a fairly reasonable awareness video during EDAW, yet completely failed to take into account any of the points that they raised during the film.

At the heart of this film is Lilly Collins, who suffers from Anorexia Nervosa. The only eating disorder that Hollywood knows exists because of course, it is the most palatable. No one wants to see an ideal or overweight person binging and purging because that’d be too upsetting and distasteful, right? Nobody wants to see the transgender person, one of the highest risk identities for eating disorders, obese and suffering from binge eating disorder, because how could Hollywood ever mold such a role in a way that suits its glossy aesthetic. There’s money to be made, after all. No, even Collins, who previously suffered from Anorexia, had to lose a dangerous amount of weight for the role.

Watching the trailer I wince, with my hand across my face, ready to defend myself from this incredibly true-to-life depiction that ironically, cuts me to the bone. I’m incredulous, I have never before seen such an intimate and realistic portrayal of my life with an eating disorder, Lilly Collins could have been me two years ago. Which is painful ironically, as she was my ultimate ‘thinspiration’. It is pure agony watching the trailer alone. Before you criticise me for being overly sensitive, that the world needs to see a realistic portrait of this horrid disorder, that it will help people truly understand its immense magnetism and uncompromising dominance, I have something to say: You do. You see it everywhere.

You see it on the side of buses, you see it on BBC News, you can access it on the BEAT or NEDA website, you can ask me, you see it in films, you read it in Heat Magazine, you can Google it, you have it on Pro-Ana/Mia sites and you have YouTube Documentaries, Netflix, Hulu. This recurring interpretation already exists in so many forms but, like a porn addict, you need more. You need to watch the most intimate moments of one type of eating disorder suffered by the same type of person in the name of awareness, again and again. This isn’t awareness; this isn’t the untold stories of millions of people worldwide that suffer from eating disorders of other types, which are different from the stereotype. This is the same shtick, made by the same people that ask their actors to reach shockingly low BMI’s to be considered for a part, that employs underweight people all the time and that encourages – and gets rich off of – fad diets.

Imagine the immense amount of money spent on this film (Netflix bought it for $8 Million) and imagine if that money was poured into resources to actually help people who suffer from disordered eating instead of the endless austerity that is literally killing us. God forbid you ever make eating disorders political, because then you pull away the curtain and expose the people who sit behind it and engineer self-hatred and the poverty and pain that leads us to harm ourselves in a myriad of ways. God forbid we ever talk about the true and horrific reality of our disordered eating and the people that suffer from them because we might get angry enough to take control and force those in power to do something about it, or even take the power for ourselves.