Proud2Bme | Comedy: A Tool for Spreading Eating Disorders Awareness?

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Comedy: A Tool for Spreading Eating Disorders Awareness?

By Dana Land--Back in December, I wrote a piece for Proud2Bme covering the joking comments made by The View cohost Joy Behar. My piece was centered on whether or not it is ever okay to joke about eating disorders, the conclusion being that the underlying message and intent of the joke is a good deciding factor for whether or not a joke should be told.

This month, Variety featured a piece about Marti Noxon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) writing and directing a dark comedy, To the Bone, about her struggles with an eating disorder.

I am not a professional comedian or writer, but I am an avid consumer of media and also in recovery. Combining the qualifications of being an avid consumer and having long-standing recovery, I consider myself very aware of what kind of media will have a damaging effect on myself and others in recovery.

As with Joy Behar and The View, intent and underlying message play a big part here as well. The director and writer of this dark comedy is someone who had once suffered and is now recovered. Having someone who is an expert on themselves write about their own experiences is a good step towards encouraging truthful and reflective comedy, rather than anything damaging or dismissive.

However, Hollywood doesn’t always like the simple truth. Hollywood likes the big bang of drama and conflict, so it’s likely that everything in the movie will be exaggerated above and beyond. This too can be done in a tasteful way. Eating disorders cause plenty of damage on their own; they don’t need to be made more dramatic. Any dramatization can be done in a way that highlights the need for early intervention and better policies surrounding treatment and recovery. This would be another great way to keep the film successful and respectful.

Eating disorders are not easily understood by the general public, and there are many myths surrounding them. My hope is that the film does not give in to the myths just to keep the general public from being lost in what they do not know or currently understand.

“‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ not only applies to the deeply personal subject matter of To the Bone, but to simply getting a film about people with eating disorders made,’” said Noxon of her film. With this quote in mind, it seems that she is aware of how important her film could be in increasing public awareness and visibility of these damaging illnesses.

Noxon will hopefully keep the recovery aspect in mind as well. Leaving out recovery and only focusing on the difficulties of living with an eating disorder may undermine hope for recovery for those who are in a similar place as the main character. That in itself could be triggering.

If Noxon’s intent and underlying message is that eating disorders are difficult and dangerous, and that recovery is possible and available to all, this film could be a crucial piece of media representation for the community. It could be used to educate the general public and provide a model for how those suffering in silence can begin their path to recovery. If Hollywood has their way and the film is filled with the big dramatics and over-exaggerations, it could trigger those watching, send the the wrong message about recovery and possibly even model disordered behaviors for those unfamiliar with the dangers of these diseases.

Hopefully, with her previous experience and personal recovery, Noxon will keep the message honest and help dispel many of the myths and rumors surrounding eating disorders and recovery.

About the blogger: Dana Land is studying psychology at DePaul University. She tries to use her social media responsibly by mainly tweeting about how much she loves dogs. She hopes to create a supportive environment both on campus and on the internet.

Also by Dana:

Recovery Takes Time: Why I’m No Longer Ashamed of Taking Medical Leave


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