I finally watched To the Bone and I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. There are tons of movies about eating disorders out there already, none of which people seem to be talking about. What’s so special about this one? I’ve watched dozens of them and To the Bone probably makes it to the Top 5 but it’s definitely not the one that touched me the most at all.
The biggest polemic seems to be about the movie supporting the philosophy that you have to be skinny to have an eating disorder. It’s true that the majority of the inpatients in Ellen’s treatment centre are portrayed as underweight, pale, sick-looking girls – and this is by any means not an accurate picture of what eating disorders look like, for they come in all shapes and sizes (you don’t even need to be skinny to be anorexic, for that matter). However, it’s worth noticing that other types of eating disorders are also mentioned, such as bulimia and BED (binge eating disorder). I’m going to take a wild guess and argue that the director might have chosen to not dwell too much upon those because they didn’t affect her personally (as far as I know, she only struggled with anorexia). On the same note I would also like to say that I did appreciate the fact that one of the patients is a boy, which shows that eating disorders, although being typically prevalent in females, can also affects males.
Some people made a point that To the Bone might be triggering to people who have suffered from an ED, are in recovery, or have an actual ED at present. I totally get this, however I would respond that if you are struggling with a disordered eating mentality you don’t need to watch To the Bone to find out new “tricks” on how to purge or chew & spit. You probably know them all already. I’ve had an ED before YouTube and I didn’t need anybody to tell me how to skip meals. At the same time though, I do agree that if you’re not 100% recovered it’s probably not going to be easy to watch a film about somebody starving themselves.
Another big argument against To the Bone is that it’s not representative of eating disorders among women of colour. Watching the trailer it’s definitely easy to think, Great, another film about a rich white girl struggling with a rich girl’s problem (read more about whitewashing here). Well, what can I say? That’s true. The only black person in the movie is one of the patients (oh, and the nurse), which is only a secondary character and has maybe two lines at most. And I admit among all the films I watched, not one was about a woman of colour struggling with an eating disorder. They were all white, and preferably loaded. However, I’m sure there are also lots of white girls who cannot afford treatment as well as black girls who can afford treatment –and I’m saying this from the point of view of the white young woman I am (who could afford treatment). Overall, I do agree that non-white women should be included and represented more in general really, not just with regards to eating disorders. However (and I’m ready to get shit for this), this is probably not relevant to the director’own experience. I’m not trying to defend her or anything, all I’m trying to say is: Marti Noxon is a well-off white woman so that’s what she chose to represent.
Certainly To The Bone depicts a very thin slice of the whole picture, but at the end of the day we should also remember that this is not a documentary on eating disorders. When you tell a story, you need to narrow it down to a specific subject. If it’s your story, it’s going to be about you. You can’t be all races, all genders, all social statuses and all religions, and you can’t have all the eating disorders. (Also, good luck putting something on the internet and not offending anyone. I’m probably offending a whole bunch of people myself right now, which is why I’m glad nobody really reads my blog). So the best approach is probably to take it for what it is: somebody’s personal experience.
Having said all that, I’ll conclude by saying that I didn’t really like it. I do believe eating disorders deserve more attention, and I’m sure it’s hard to make a responsible movie about EDs without glamorising being thin and turning anorexia into a white girls’ problem; but as I mentioned earlier I’ve watched a bunch of other films about eating disorders and there are quite a few that do a much better job at denouncing such a delicate topic in a more comprehensive way.