Tackling the subject of eating disorders was never going to be a popular choice for streaming giant Netflix. Where original comedies like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt nestle alongside controversial dramas like #13ReasonsWhy, Marti Noxon's #ToTheBone is already coming under fire for its representation of yet another controversial issue. The trailer for the drama — starring #LilyCollins and #KeanuReeves — may only just have been released, but critics are already swarming over the movie with accusations of glamorizing a very sensitive topic of conversation.
No Bones About It
Despite society being more willing to talk about eating disorders, the subject still remains somewhat taboo. Even in 2017 there are relatively few movies that dare to tackle something as cripplingly misunderstood. While we have numerous films that chart people's struggles with other psychological issues, terminal illnesses, or personal battles, we seldom stray into the grey area of eating disorders and the effects.
While To The Bone promises to be daring if nothing else, it wasn't long before people noticed Noxon's subject matter could be seen as a trigger to impressionable viewers. Images of an emaciated Collins sporting a bruised spine are undoubtedly tough to look at, and those who have knowledge of anorexia, or may have suffered with eating disorders, soon tore the movie apart on social media:
Viewers then turned attention to 13 Reasons Why, which although being highly praised, was also slammed for its portrayal of "romanticizing" suicide. The two can be argued as similar entities, and it seems that the company may not be handling the core issues with the respect they deserve. However, although we have the attractive and likable lead who has a love interest to keep the story plodding along, To The Bone hardly has a pro-anorexia sticker plastered on its cover.
Thankfully, some saw Noxon's movie as a potential window into the discussion of eating disorders and defended her decision to tackle anorexia. In equal measure, some called out those who had a problem with To The Bone highlighting the life-threatening disease:
A Personal Struggle
In defense of her work, Noxon herself took to Twitter in an attempt to dispel the controversy around To The Bone. In fact, the writer/director opened up about her own struggle with eating disorders:
“Having struggled with Anorexia and Bulimia well into my 20s, I know firsthand the struggle, isolation and shame a person feels when they are in the grips of this illness. In an effort to tell this story as responsibly as we could, we spoke with other survivors and worked with Project Heal throughout the production in the hopes of being truthful in a way that wasn’t explosive. That said, it’s important to remember EDs is unique and To The Bone is just one of the millions of ED stories that could be told in the US at this very moment. My goal with the film was not to glamorize EDs, but to serve as a conversation starter about an issue that is too often clouded by secrecy and misconceptions.”
Perhaps it is the fact that big stars like Collins and Reeves could be accused of being used to "sell" anorexia, but with the 28-year-old actress also opening up about her own personal battle with eating disorders, you would be hard pushed to find someone better for the part of Ellen. From a first look, it certainly looks to be a dark but poignant look at those afflicted with food-related issues. However, with such an understanding of the disease, who could be better to carefully handle a movie about eating disorders?
The trailer is hardly a laugh a minute affair, however, there are lighter moments in there accompanied by a poppy soundtrack. Some psychologists are already saying that To The Bone may serve as a manual on how to be anorexic, while others are worried it could trigger copycats. The controversy comes just weeks after a 23-year-old Peruvian man jumped to his death and left tapes behind for those "responsible" for his death, akin to Hannah from 13 Reasons Why. Elsewhere, the aforementioned images of Collins' spine are already circulating on pro-anorexia websites as a form of "thinspiration." Clearly this was not Netflix's intention, but the material is already being used as a dangerous tool against vulnerable or impressionable people.
Australia’s Government body Mindframe is planning to raise its concerns over To The Bone to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, while other countries are also sharing worries. It was a similar case with 13 Reasons Why, when schools across Australia were forced to write letters home warning about Netflix's show after it caused depression among students. It is too early to tell whether To The Bone really does glamorize anorexia, but with only a trailer available so far, it is a little presumptuous to already slam the production. Whether raising awareness or acting as a trigger, To The Bone is certainly one to watch when it premieres on July 14.