To the Bone director defends Netflix drama from claims it “triggers” anorexia

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Elle Griffiths
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When Netflix dropped the trailer for their upcoming original movie To the Bone last week, it sparked controversy in some quarters. 

The film, starring Lily Collins, is loosely based on director Marti Noxon’s own experience of anorexia. 

But eating disorder charities argued that the trailer was potentially “triggering” for those with the disease and that it breached Responsible Coverage of Eating Disorder guidelines.

And now Noxon has responded to the criticism on Twitter. 

The industry veteran, who honed her craft in the writers rooms of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Mad Men, drafted a sensitive and heart-felt response. 

She began: “Having suffered with anorexia and bulimia well into my 20s, I know firsthand the struggle, shame and isolation a person feels when they are in the grips of this illness.”

Noxon went on to stress that the show had also worked closely with both survivors and charities to keep the depiction true to life and responsible, adding that she had no intention of “glamourising” the disease.

Incidentally. Lily Collins has also spoken out about her own struggles with the illness, telling Shape magazine: "I’ve always strived to start conversations about taboo subjects with young women … having suffered from an eating disorder does not define me, I’m not ashamed of my past."

Charities had expressed concern that  Collin’s emaciated appearance may encourage a “race to the bottom” effect among sufferers and that a warning and/or link to help and resources should have been included in the trailer. 

The National Eating Disorder Association (a US charity) stated: “Research proves that coverage dramatizing dangerous thinness can provoke a ‘race to the bottom’ among other sufferers, i.e., ‘She is thinner than I am and she’s still alive. I should lose more weight.'”

Elsewhere, UK eating disorder charity Beat told Stylist: “We are aware media can play a big part in how eating disorders are perceived, influencing attitudes, beliefs and actions. We very much support the media in raising awareness of eating disorders, as the more we talk about these serious mental illnesses the better we can break down stigma and, in turn, encourage individuals to seek treatment as soon as possible.

“Equally, we know that when eating disorders are glamourised or trivialised by the media, this can trigger negative behaviours in people who are affected by these complex mental health issues.

“For this reason we encourage the media to refer to our reporting guidelines, which provide information on eating disorders and guidance on how to report on them.

“We particularly recommend media not to report on specific low weights, amounts of food eaten, or show pictures of people at very low weights, as these can be harmful to viewers who are vulnerable.”

However, Noxon’s response seems to have placated some critics who are now withholding further judgement until the film itself premieres. 

Speaking to The MightyProject Heal co-founder Liana Rosenman said: “It’s a challenge to make a truthful movie about eating disorders that sheds light on their severity and complexity — capturing the patient and family experience of this real mental disorder — without glamorizing the disease ‘To the Bone’ tows this line beautifully.

“While the movie has the possibility to be triggering to some, I strongly believe that it will make a huge difference of raising public awareness of this silenced disorder.”

Some on Twitter still expressed a wariness that Keanu Reeves’ role as the handsome, sympathetic doctor may detract from the seriousness of the condition which has a 20% mortality rate.

It remains the deadliest psychiatric disorder.

Images: Rex/Netflix


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Elle Griffiths

Elle Griffiths is a freelance writer living in Brighton. She divides her time pretty evenly between despairing about American Politics, watching Mad Men re-runs and complaining about Southern Rail delays.