Does Netflix's Newest Film To the Bone Represent or Romanticize Eating Disorders?

Jun 21, 2017 at 10:06 p.m. ET
Image: Variety

Netflix just released a very controversial trailer about a very controversial topic: To the Bone, a movie about eating disorders.


Creating art today is hard. That’s a good thing. Being able to depict reality has always been difficult, especially in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to handle reality. But that doesn’t mean reality shouldn’t be depicted at all.

More: Eating disorders are a mental illness — not a choice

To the Bone is the story of a girl named Ellen, played by Lily Collins, an actor who suffered from eating disorders as a teenager. Ellen suffers from anorexia, an eating disorder that involves intensely dangerous calorie counting and sometimes no eating at all. It follows her journey through doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, family heartbreak and what love means in a world where you don’t love yourself.

While the world desperately needs proper representation of mental illness in all its forms, it’s important that that representation isn’t tainted by Hollywood’s depiction of how mental illness can make a good story. Mental illness for the sake of entertainment is often a trap Hollywood finds itself in. Sometimes mental illness doesn’t turn out OK, and sometimes love can’t be found in a place where there’s so much darkness. So while I give kudos to Netflix and writer and director Marti Noxon for tackling the hard-to-watch and hard-to-talk-about issue, the trailer gives off a much more romanticized feel than mental illness should be made out to look.

More: 6 tips if you suspect an eating disorder in your child

Twitter has been on this same page, going back and forth about if this film is a good or bad thing; if it’s just a trigger for those with eating disorders or if it sheds light on what people with eating disorders actually go through.


Like I said, creating art is harder than it used to be. While we can be grateful that the topic is being covered at all, the fact is that those in the positions to create tend to aim for a sappy, goody-goody story over the truth. That’s not to say survivors don’t exist — they’re everywhere, and you wouldn’t even know it. But recovery is not a fun dance in the mental institution or a trip to a waterfall or finding someone who loves you no matter your flaws. More often than not, recovery is years of a lived life lost, a broken home and sometimes a relapse.

But it’s all circumstantial. And that’s what’s so difficult about portraying reality correctly. As my dad has always reminded me, one person’s reality is different from another person’s. Watching Netflix’s To the Bone will be a different experience for everyone. As long as mental illness isn’t romanticized, the film looks to be important and inspiring.