Eating Disorder Film Totally Goes Over Bulimia Coach’s Head

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

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    • elle

      So basically she just wants to see those cheesy, glossy, predictable films about Eds? You know, the ones that teaches you how to have EDs? Awesome. WTF is a bulimia coach anyway? Looking around her site just kinda seems like a wanna be therapist/life coach/money grabber.

      • jordan

        Exactly!! as someone who is actually bulimic and not a bulimia coach…whatever the hell that is…I LOVED this film and connected with it in so many ways. This Julie Kerr character seems to be trying to get her name out there and using this as a way to do it…

    • palomag

      I agree 100 percent with everything you’re saying…and totally don’t understand the point this “bulimia coach” is trying to make. She seems very contradictory and just another “eating disorder expert” that has no idea what it is to actually experience an eating disorder. very sad. I think some people just don’t have the capacity to appreciate art and the power it has to move people!

    • Dr. Nina

      However the disordered eating behavior manifests, whether bulimia, anorexia, or bingeing, that behavior is a “symptom” of a deeper problem (even though it feels like “the” problem). Disordered eating is not caused by fad diets; it has to do with underlying conflicts and issues that the behavior serves to distract from, numb or express. It’s a way of trying to solve a psychological problem through physical action. It’s also not just something that teenage girls struggle with; it’s a human problem, impacting men, boys, and adult women, and it needs serious attention and understanding.

      • Joanna Rafael

        Completely agree.

    • Kaitlin Reilly

      I kind of see the point — I think this is a great short, but at the same time, for someone in an unhealthy mind, I could see the thinness of the models as somewhat triggering. Then again, the entire mainstream media could be triggering, since very similar images are what we see in fashion magazines anyway. The video was based on things seen in the mainstream media.

    • Muggle

      Ugh. She’s like those Moral Guardians who infest public high schools and see a problem, like suicide or drug use or teen pregnancy, and demand that any book that portrays a character realistically suffering that condition be banned– but also demand that the cheesy, cliched Very Special Episode be shown. Ugh.

      I’ve never had an eating disorder, but I have suffered from body dysmorphia and other mental illnesses and living with one is not happy or shiny. I’m not some rosy-cheeked kid who feels better with a brief pep talk; nobody with a mental illness is like that. Mental illness IS grotesque and horrifying. It’s nice to see a film that really shows the mind of someone who is suffering, instead of showing their outward behavior. This “bulimia coach” is full of shit.

    • Sarah

      I hate the film. I think it furthers many of the exclusionary stereotypes about eating disorders – it’s a young, seemingly affluent, white women done in by fashion society (aka extremely unrealistic body standards). Eating disorders are MUCH, MUCH more diverse and complex than this film portrays. While I appreciate the agony that it shows, as an eating disorder survivor, I felt that it was sensationalist and stereotypical. That said, it is NOT about bulimia. The “bulimia coach” seems to be a bit confused as to what bulimia is. There is no evidence of binging in the video; if anything, it seems to be more of a portray of anorexia, which can include purging, or eating disorder not otherwise specified, which is the most common, yet least discussed, eating disorder.

      • ellis

        Thank you!!! i agree 100% I think the film is very stereotypical and really shows nothing new. It just seems like a slightly macabre fashion ad with a bizarre cut scene featuring terrible make-up effects and the 2 second clip of a girl throwing up, I really don’t understand why so many people are praising it. I think its very one dimensional and superficial view of eating disorders and believe it in no way reflects the real complexity of eating disorders, especially bulimia. I also found it very triggering. All in all. nope, do not want.

    • wickedrache

      I think you’re both right insofar as your point is that the video is well done, and I think you missed HER point in that the video is also more of the same and is deleterious to many, case by case basic (sic) notwithstanding.

    • Sarah

      While I understand your point that the film is definitely not designed as a therapeutic tool for individuals suffering from eating disorders, I think that you’re ignoring an important point that Kerr makes. Yes, this video looks absolutely grotesque to someone WITHOUT an eating disorder who watches it, and yes, that may inspire conversation. But, ideally, shouldn’t the point of inspiring conversation be to ultimately raise awareness of eating disorders so that those suffering from them can get the help they need? And if the ultimate goal is to help a group of people, then the film aiming to help them shouldn’t be directly destructive to that very same group of people.

      I am in recovery from anorexia, and I barely got through 30 seconds of this film without cringing. But I made myself watch the whole thing so that I could make an intelligent reply. And after the first few minutes, I actually thought that the film was interesting and thought-provoking, at least from my perspective. But I really think that the first 2-3 minutes, in which all we see is a bunch of incredibly thin models, were both triggering and gratuitous. To a healthy person, these people look absolutely emaciated. But to a lot of people with anorexia, including me only a few months ago? These girls look FANTASTIC. That’s exactly what I wanted to look like. That girl on the table at around 1:30? The one whose ribcage you can clearly see? That would have been a good start. If I could have gotten that skinny, I would have been well on my way to being as thin as I wanted to be. Do you see what I’m saying? It’s very much a matter of perspective, and, from an eating disordered perspective (not necessarily for all sufferers but certainly for a large number), this film is thinspiration. Those models ARE triggering. Not to everyone, but to some people, they are. That is not “cynical.” That is a fact. Watching this film does not in any way make me want to recover. It makes me want to get thinner. And I know that your point is that it is not designed to help me recover. Okay, but showing this type of film to help healthy individuals understand what someone with an eating disorder goes through without explicitly explaining that this is an example of a film that an anorexic or bulimic person would watch specifically to inspire themselves to become thinner, leads to more misconceptions than it fixes. Watching this film, it is clear to me that the individuals who conceived and created it are very ignorant about eating disorders. If they truly knew what it was like to have an eating disorder, and were truly trying to inspire a helpful discussion among people in general, they would have never make this film.

      In short, I understand the point you are trying to make, but please at least try to understand the other side of the argument without simply blowing it off as “bullshit” or “missing the point.” The opinion of an expert in eating disorders, and especially the opinion of those with eating disorders, should be your most informative source if you want to judge the quality of a film about eating disorders.

      • Sarah

        Also, I want to apologize if you yourself are also someone who has or has had an eating disorder. In that case, your opinion on the film is, I think, especially important. I just think that the opinions of other individual with eating disorders are just as important, and should also be considered before you dismiss the opinion that this film does more harm than good.