“For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an eating disorder: reverse anorexia. It’s when I look in the mirror and think I’m really skinny.” – Lisa Gopman
I read this ‘joke’ this morning when it popped up on my Facebook feed. The joke is currently published on the Comedy Central website, labelled under ‘funny jokes’. I’m not sure if I’m alone here, but I did not find this at all funny. In fact, I found it incredibly sad and hurtful. I re-read it about ten times, totally shocked at what my eyes were trying to register.
Seeing this immature ‘joke’ go into the world of social media with absolutely no repercussions angered me to no end. How is it possible that we live in a world where eating disorders are being joked about in the worst way? I shut it down, excusing it, saying it was just one joke. But as I watched an old episode of Family Guy, the same thing happened. I don’t really enjoy it, if I’m honest, but I’m ok with the fact that they seem to poke fun at touchy subjects. In the episode that I was watching, eating disorders were actually encouraged! A scene from season 6, episode 9 depicts a normal sized female character in conversation with a well-known Hollywood star.
James Woods: “Now, Meg, you want to be thin like all the Hollywood starlets, right?
Meg: “Yeah, but I love to eat.”
James Woods: “Well, I’ve got a way that you can eat all you want and look like a Hollywood starlet. Meg, let me introduce you to Mr. Pukey. Hiya, Meg.”
James Woods: “Gosh, Mr. Pukey, you sure are good at making fat women hot. You think you could help out my friend Meg here? Yeah, I think I could give her a… hand. Now close your eyes, Meg, and let Mr. Pukey help you out.”
(Meg throws up)
James Woods: “When did Reese Witherspoon get here?”
At the time, I brushed over it. It was just a joke, right? But the real message later hit me; they were advocating bulimia. Intentional or unintentional, eating disorders are not a joke. The fact that these horrific ordeals are being joked about in this day and age is shocking; and even more horrifying is the fact that no-one has done anything about it. Raise all the awareness you like, aspects of society are still viewing mental health, eating orders specifically, as a joke.
I would force my fingers down my throat seven times a day, and would measure and restrict my meagre meals. This is not a joke. I was making terrible, terrible decisions that were disguised as normal. Again, I don’t see this as a joke. This blog is not a rant about the dangers of the techno world, however, the fact that making yourself puke was seen as normal, as funny, made me believe that what I was doing was right; and I suffer from that naivety every day. One film that particularly struck me was ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. It is a fabulous film; a funny, coming-of-age tale about a young girl finding her feet in the fashion world, though she is a ‘size six’. However, there are many issues with this. Emily, for one, is blatantly anorexic. For those who have seen the film, Emily is the overworked PA of Miranda, the head of a fashion magazine. She is, effectively, the bitchy boss that everyone hates before we understand her job expectations. There is one point in which she explains her diet, claiming that if she feels like she will faint, she eats ‘a cube of cheese’. Not once is her warped relationship with food addressed – it is actually mocked.
In many aspects of cinema and TV, eating disorders as a whole are mocked. ‘She must be bulimic, she keeps going to the bathroom’, or ‘she looks great, but she needs to lose more weight’ were constant reminders that my non-existent relationship with food was alright, because everyone else did it. The feelings of fear and desperation that would run through my head every time my mum would offer me another slice were advocated, sought after. I was strong because I was skinny, because I worked hard to be pretty.
As a society, we must take action to stop eating disorders from being advocated; by mocking mental health, specifically in the ED region, this is what we are doing. Advocating a subject that not only ruins, but ends lives. Mental health is not a joke to poke fun at. For many people, mental health is a daily struggle, a battle with one’s self to leave the house, to eat breakfast, and for some, even to stay alive. It is estimated that 1 in 6 people in the past week experienced a common mental health problem. So why are we allowing big hollywood shows and movies to advocate and normalise mental health? I assure you, it is not normal to feel the way that so many of us do; it should not be normal in our society.