Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Billion Dollar Industry

The director of To The Bone, Marti Noxon, spoke to the audience at the end of her Sundance film. "Remember," she said, "There is still a billion dollar industry trying to convince you to hate your body."

When To the Bone ended, it did so in the quintessential Sundance way--for me. The entire film was gripping. One of the closing scenes has me in tears, and when the screen goes dark and credits start to roll, I can't speak. I work through the summary of what I've just seen, work through the words that allow me to turn to my movie companion and say at least something. Even if it's just Wow.

To the Bone was a drama about anorexia nervosa and the rest of the Pandora's box of eating disorders--yet was it really? It was about family, about struggle, about love conquers all.

As we watch our protagonist Ellen struggle through this harrowing disease, I don't have much hope for her recovery. Ingesting food has become such a struggle, I believe it's impossible for her and her fellow in-patients to ever get well. I prepare for the film's tragic end.

But it's not what happened. Ellen (who's since become Eli), has an out of body experience where she sees her body with clarity, with divine eyes from a miraculous moment. Ah, so this movie is really saying that the only way to wellness from the prison of  body distortion is through divine intervention?

I like the idea, I believe the idea, but it's not necessarily a Hollywood motif.

The director again, brings clarity.

The story is her true and fictionalized version of her own struggle with an eating disorder that took over her life at age 14 and lasted until age 25. It was only when she was lying down and felt the last beats of her heart, and when she next found herself above her body looking clearly at its state, did she start the road to recovery. She returned to that body and stood before us having just shared her own tale, her own remarkable piece of art, her film.

She also reminds us, sadly, that eating disorders are on the rise and it is no longer an American women's problem. It is worldwide and affecting males as well as females.

Really, it shouldn't be such a surprise as I recall the debilitating words that have so stuck in my mind, "Remember," she said, "There is still a billion dollar industry trying to convince you to hate your body."