Well Being

Eating Disorder Film Totally Goes Over Bulimia Coach’s Head

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elle fanning likenessI received a tweet a couple of hours ago alerting me to a bulimia coach's blog response to the Rodrigo Prieto short film we talked about yesterday…the raw and honest one that left us with our mouths agape? Well, Julie M. Kerr did not like LIKENESS at all. She completely missed the point.

Let's do a point by point review of why Kerr has completely misjudged LIKENESS:

Personally I don’t see how the movie ‘Likeness’ by Rodrigo Prieto is helpful.

Art doesn't have to be helpful, but this helps give insight, which has its own value when it comes to helping people. But Kerr might have preferred the video be of eating disorder survivors high-fiving as eating disorder help hotline numbers flash over the screen, but Likeness wasn't intended to be a feel-good helpful recovery aid.

This short video about ‘eating disorders’ is more of a thinspiration (pro anorexia / pro bulimia) video with all the images of skinny models taking up a high percentage of the footage.  So potentially glamourising eating disorders and triggering for someone with an eating disorder.

The shots of triggering and “skinny models,” as Kerr snarkily describes them, are anything but glamorous. The video is positively grotesque. It's supposed to be gross and encouraging.

It may have been therapeutic for Rodrigo Prieto’s family but is it necessary for public consumption?

That's just a condescending sentiment. LIKENESS is a meditation on eating disorders, not a therapeutic Prieto family project. Does Kerr not realize this film was in a festival? It is necessary for public consumption and the public is consuming it voraciously. It isn't meant to be distributed to eating disorder clinics for therapy.

Will it open up conversation when it’s not actually suitable for someone with an eating disorder to watch?

It already has opened up conversation and it is suitable on a case by case basic.

Sure Elle Fanning powerfully captures the self hate of someone with an eating disorder and the pretence[sic] that you’re OK.

Okay, Kerr definitely didn't watch all the way through. She didn't see the scene of Elle Fanning in the mirror. If she did see that part, than the film must have been too nuanced for her to understand.

It is a bit like a road crash. The movie doesn’t contain anything that you can’t see on YouTube from the point of view of depicting the horrors of an eating disorder – a number of videos spring to mind.

It absolutely does contain things “you can't see on YouTube.” This is art, not someone's slideshow about recovery or clips from a 10 year old documentary about an eating disorder treatment facility. It's critical that we discuss bulimia and anorexia from more angles. We need to help people understand what it's like, and films like this help. If it was “like a road crash,” then good. We shouldn't be looking away from this horror.

We certainly need to talk far more openly about the subject of eating disorders – one of the supposed reasons for the film – but seeing it’a[sic] not really suitable for someone suffering I’m not sure it is going to do that.

I agree that we need to be more open about eating disorders. That's why I'm confused as to her urge to squash LIKENESS as an open discussion. The film is so candid that it's hard to watch. Perhaps someone currently in treatment wouldn't have a hard time viewing it now–but maybe one day they could watch and see truth reflected on the screen. Or they could just see another story of a ballerina with divorced parents who was looking for control and found it in laxatives.

I think a movie about the harmful short and long term bulimia side effects may be more useful – although I’m sure many suffering from an eating disorder already know enough about the damage it is doing.

LIKENESS isn't about being useful, and it's not meant to be a recovery resource.Kerr is right about one thing–those suffering know about the damage their disorder is doing already. We don't need more slaps on the hand and fear mongering. We need more honesty, compassion, and understanding.

Far more useful might be a film about the dangers of restricted and fad diets which despite being the major trigger for an eating disorder, in particluar [sic] the binge purge cycle (the main characteristic of bulimia), are part of everyday life or perhaps an inspiring film on why someone would want to recover – what’s great about life – being human and about discovering one’s own unique look and talents.

Okay, I'll have to ignore the fact that an alleged bulimia coach basically just said that eating disorders are triggered by fad diets (eating disorders are not diets that got out of hand) and focus on her idea for a “useful” film about eating disorders. Her Pollyanna dream to have “an inspiring film on why someone would want to recover” and yadda yadda yadda is bullshit. If she's looking for something useful, another phony, glossy look at why recovery is beautiful isn't it. We'd rather see a revolting heart-laid-bare short like Likeness any day.

I’d love to know what you think?

I think you're wrong. I think you missed the point.

Here's our original post and Kerr's post.

Image via Likeness