When my former student (and current friend) Nicole Tieri sent out an email message a few days ago describing her concerns about a new documentary airing next month, I thought that her thoughts deserved wider circulation. Here is what she had to say:
To those I see daily and to those who have forgotten what my voice sounds like, I offer up the same hearty hello. I hope this missive finds you happy and in good health. Despite the occasional case of indigestion and the loathsome moles I’ve recently had removed, life is pretty darn good.
I write, then, out of concern (though I am not so sure that’s the best word) for THIN, the documentary set to air on Nov. 14th on HBO. In my inability to stay away from such titles, I have been immersing myself in the details of the production. Documentarian Laura Greenfield, author of one of my favorite books of pictures entitled Girl Culture, was granted unprecedented access to film for 10 weeks at the Florida chapter of Renfrew Center for Anorexia and Bulimia. Following the gritty day-to-day life that is an inpatient E.D. program, she captures every bone, every weight, every breakdown of the patients. I know, I really do know, that this film has the ability to slash through the glamorous portrayal of eating disorders often spilling from the pages of magazines. I know that a boy, girl, man, or woman struggling with the disorders could be inspired to get well outside of the walls of treatment, even if it is simply to avoid the inpatient experience (indeed, I shuddered at the memory and the humiliation of peeing into a cc “hat” under the watchful eye of a nurse practitioner, of supervised showers, of the self-loathing and tears accompanying so many meals, and the hell of the all-too-early wake-up calls for daily weights and vitals—not to mention the bitter tirade your mind subjected you to if that scale inched its way even an ounce upward).
But my hesitation regarding this film is thinly veiled (pun not intended), and I am worried. Worried that those in recovery might view this film, see the images and—as was my first response—feel like a big fat failure for the life we have carved out for ourselves as skin covers bone and health tips the scales in its favor. While many of us do not desire to return to the half life we were once living (or barely living), this documentary reminds me that I still find skeletally thin appealing, still find the fuzzy cocoon of illness appealing to me in a whacked-out way. Also, I feel like this will serve as a gross inspirational film for those in the depths of the disorder; seeing a bonier and sicker version of yourself makes you want to get that sick, that far gone. I am quite a few years removed from this phase of my disorder, yet admittedly I began wanting to lose a few pounds. I’m able to acknowledge this and cope without spiraling into a relapse, but some sufferers are not, especially those whose recovery is chronicled in the film (I would have smashed the camera on more than one occasion if I had been filmed during the weight-gain phase of my recovery!). I wonder then, does the potential of helping some outweigh the risk of sacrificing others?
Thanks for indulging me. Want to see for yourself? Check out the video clips on the right side of the screen on this page.