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Netflix's 'To The Bone' faces criticism, comparisons to '13 Reasons Why'

Netflix has shown with their controversial series "13 Reasons Why" -- and its second season renewal -- they won't shy away from taking on serious subjects despite backlash. Their next big film release "To The Bone" depicts a rail-thin Lily Collins battling anorexia.

“To The Bone” has already raised eyebrows, with publications like SELF, The Telegraph and Business Insider. Business Insider called the film the “next ’13 Reasons Why’” in its headline and The Telegraph labeled the movie “irresponsible.”

Collins, the film’s star, has been open about her past battle with anorexia. The director of program development at the Newport Academy, a teen rehab center, told SELF the film could be dangerous for the 28-year-old star.

"Anorexia is a very serious mental illness, and there is the chance that someone can relapse during or after recovery," the Newport Academy’s Heather Senior Monroe, L.C.S.W., told SELF. "Putting Collins in the position where she needed to lose weight for the role, and essentially relive the disease to an extent, crosses a boundary that is not in alignment with healthy recovery."

Collins told Refinery 29 she lost the weight for the film “under the supervision of a nutritionist.”

The director of “To The Bone,” Marti Noxon, has also battled eating disorders. She defended her film in a lengthy tweet on June 22, as articles criticizing the film began to make waves after the trailer dropped on June 20. Noxon wrote that she aimed to make the film “responsibly” and that her “goal with the film was not to glamorize [eating disorders] but to serve as a conversation.”

“Having struggled with Anorexia and Bulimia well into my 20s, I know firsthand the struggle, isolation and shame person feels when they are in the grips of this illness. In an effort to tell this story as responsibly as we could, we spoke with other survivors and worked with Project Heal throughout production in the hopes of being truthful in a way that it wasn’t exploitive.”

But many social media users, who viewed just the trailer for the film, didn’t see things that way. Some claimed the trailer should have been preluded by a warning.

Dr. John Huber, the chairman for Mainstream Mental Health, told Fox News, Netflix needs to promote resources when the film is released for those who may be struggling with eating disorders.

Netflix did not return multiple requests for comment regarding whether or not the film would include a warning or any such resources.

“If Netflix wants to try and ensure… ‘To The Bone' does not become controversial like ‘13 Reasons Why’ did and does not want to stimulate an uptick in suicide and anorexia, Netflix would need to include resources to help identify these issues and educate individuals that are concerned about them,” Huber said.

The CEO of the National Eating Disorder Association added that those with eating disorders or those who have struggled with similar issues in the past can be sensitive to “triggers.” 

“One of the things that can be upsetting for people who are either at risk or in recovery from eating disorders is to see very graphic depictions of extreme thinness, so that is one of the things that has been criticized about the [‘To The Bone’] trailer,” Claire Mysko told Fox News. “… People can feel also triggered by specific descriptions of calories and eating disorder behavior. That is something we have heard in our community some people found that upsetting in viewing the trailer.”  

But Jacquelyn Ekern, president of the organization Eating Disorder Hope & Addiction Hope, believes the film may ultimately spark conversation about a topic that needs to be discussed -- and that will be helpful to those battling eating disorders.

“I think for a few [people] it could be triggering and that is unfortunate. But I think for the vast majority of people they… recognize there is a lot of emotion and conflict in all of us when we are struggling with something,” she said. “Overall I think it is beneficial rather than detrimental to just be realistic. For some people, it does involve suicidal ideation or worse. I don't think the movie is meant to inspire people to do that, but to take a look at hard issues that we face by bringing [them] out into the open. [And by doing that] it is more likely to be addressed.” 

“To The Bone” will begin streaming on Netflix on July 14th

You can follow Blanche Johnson on Twitter @blancheFOXLA.

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