Warning: The following images from Netflix may be a trigger for those with eating disorders. Reader discretion is advised.
For the last few months, controversy has been swirling on the Internet and in conversations regarding the Netflix drama series "13 Reasons Why." While some viewers saw the Selena Gomez-directed series as "raw" and "realistic," many found the novel adaption to be "trigger-riddled" and "glamorizing mental illness."
In light of this debated release, when the trailer for Netflix's latest film "To The Bone" came out, many were concerned that it would follow in the footsteps of it's predecessor, depicting eating disorders as something to be idolized and honored. However, on its July 14th release day, many were pleasantly surprised by the Lily Collins-led dramedy. Students across the country were asked to watch the film and share their honest reactions as well as compare "To The Bone" with "13 Reasons Why."
1. Madison Telschow, Texas A&M University
It's accurate, to the point of uncomfortable. It's real; it's descriptive; it's painful. And that is what makes it great. However, a lot of the same can be said for 13 Reasons Why. I would say this is slightly more raw than 13 Reasons; more graphic with the bruises and the bones but also just more real with the bottle-feeding and the hallucinations. For that reason, I think that To the Bone glamorizes its issues less, and draws real, serious attention to the problems it addresses.
2. Gauri Mangala, Gettysburg College
Lily Collins' character portrays this sickly version of anorexia that society can easily identify as unhealthy. But having other characters that you may not even know had issues with food and weight in [the group home] allows the viewer to know that just like everything else, people come in all shapes and sizes...they also conveyed this idea that eating disorders are more than just trying to be skinny. They described it similarly to how people describe the need to self harm - That there is somewhat of a euphoric response to the act of starving yourself. It isn't always about body image. While I had my issues with 13 Reasons Why, especially with the lack of trigger warnings when it initially came out, I genuinely thought it depicted depression and suicide pretty well. Similarly, I think that To The Bone gets its point across. One person's struggles do not mimic another's. While the dialogue in To The Bone was cheesy and the scenes in 13 Reasons Why were horrifying, it was still honest to the truth behind these struggles.
3. Jerry Oliveri, Edith Cowen University
"The film highlights the unconventional truths surrounding eating disorders by showcasing the different realities that many people face behind closed doors. 'To The Bone' does not glamorize eating disorders, rather, it reiterates the harsh truth that life simply isn't easy. It achieved this so well by allowing the audience to delve into the not-so-pretty side of those suffering from eating disorders- mental problems, heartache and self-destruction."
4. Sarah Arnold, Purdue University
I found this film to be way more accurate than 13 Reasons Why. It showed the sad reality of eating disorders and it did not make it 'cool' to have one. 13 Reasons Why was inaccurate and in my opinion selfish. It made suicide seem beautiful when it is actually tragic, especially since someone in my life committed suicide. To The Bone showed how horrible eating disorders can be and I don’t feel like it would make people want to become that way. While the ending was somewhat cheesy, it also gave a sense of hope that things can get better which would help those watching and what those who have eating disorders need to see.
5. Grace Koza, Purdue University
In 13 Reasons Why, there were times I was very uncomfortable and I felt that brutal uncomfortableness here in To The Bone. I liked that it really emphasized all of the people in the house and their appearances. They looked very sick, were incredibly skinny, lost hair, etc. I think 13 Reasons Why can teach teenagers some valuable lessons but it was very brutal when it came to topics like rape, drinking, depression and obviously bullying. To The Bone was good in the way that two people can have a intellectual conversation about it. It definitely made me want to punch a wall sometimes though.
13 Reasons Why was released just weeks after my best friend committed suicide. I watched the series hoping to find insight and understanding for my friend, yet I found only a glamorized view of the mental illness world through the eyes of ignorant producers.
To The Bone was redemptive for Netflix, in my opinion. There was nothing beautiful about Ellen's condition. There was no placing of blame. She was not regarded as some dark hero as Hannah Baker was. Lily Collins' portrayal of this fragile soul was difficult to watch because it crossed the boundary between a character and a real person. The family's anguish and confusion was not forced, and the awkward dynamic represented how such a devastating disease can tear relationships in two.
Glamorization is not needed when reality is depicted accurately. Rather than tailoring a script for the sole purpose of obtaining more viewers, To The Bone displayed eating disorders as they are: monstrous, controlling and a devastating blow to not only the patient, but those who care for them as well.
Lead Image Credit: Netflix