Shedding light or fanning flames? Why 13 Reasons Why and To the Bone don’t sit well with me.

Netflix garnered quite a bit of attention by picking up a series based on a book that deals with teenage suicide and high school pressures. They are back on the radar for the upcoming addition: To the Bone. I watched all of 13 Reasons Why and sat back and wondered about what resonated with me. I felt full of emotions that didn’t necessarily make me more aware, but impacted my well being because I left feeling very uneasy and negative. I watched the preview for To the Bone and also felt this kind of empty pit. Do these types of series shed light on an issue and offer aid to those who are seeking solace, or do they fan the flames of people on the edge? Is it opening a discussion with parents or inviting unhealthy triggers into viewer’s lives?

Reflecting on 13 Reasons Why, I remember feeling so upset that even though a mother and daughter team helped direct it (Selena Gomez and her Mom), and the characters had concerned parents, none of the characters were portrayed as close to their parents. They made out parents to be mindless, unaware, and unnecessarily concerned but unwilling to be more available. They made the high school kids to be in secure families but secretive and so open range that they could walk out on their parents and get caught with drugs at school and still just get an apathetic grumble from mom. To me, this just showed teens not to open up to their parents and to hole up their feelings. The parents seemed to fail them. The school counselor and teachers seemed to fail them. Reliable adult resources were failures, according to 13 Reasons Why. Now that I’m in my late twenties and a decade has passed since my teens, and I have worked with youth in ministry, my heart hurts to see depictions where adults fail the youth and where the youth don’t trust the people placed in their lives to help them. I want to scream, “we were in your shoes too! We understand, please open up to us!”

To the Bone looks like a heartwarming tale from the preview, but I also know that beyond some hints at lightheartedness, there is nothing to romanticize about an eating disorder (ED). It truly bothers me that they chose an actress with an ED past to play the main character and undergo weight loss and method acting that could have caused her to go into relapse. It’s obvious that makeup magic plays a role in making Lily Collins look gaunt and unhealthy, but let me also include a portion from an interview she did with Elle magazine:

“They hired a nutritionist, and we did it in the most healthy way possible. I had a lot of people…to be accountable for how I was doing it, and I had check-ups all the time. I thought it was necessary for me to portray the character in the best way that I knew I could, and also to pay homage to what she was going through. There was never any pressure put on me to reach a current weight or limit. I felt like I had to limit myself in a way as well. I felt like I had to get into that mindset and recognize some of the feelings that I once had felt and that Ellen was feeling.

The gaining of it back was probably a little harder, because it’s just a strange twist on what I went through when I was younger—which was about losing, not about gaining. The idea that after this movie I had to get back to proper health, it wasn’t as easy. You know, eating a bunch of burgers and milkshakes and all that—I don’t really eat meat anyway—it had to be done in a healthy way, and it’s not good to go from nothing to a lot, because your body doesn’t know how to handle it. It took a little while longer than I think most people would have expected it to, but it was a process that needed to happen and it was a very personal experience. But I came out of it extremely proud of the work we had done.”

Source: http://www.elle.com/…/lily-collins-to-the-bone-netflix…/

She felt she had to pay homage. She felt like she had to go back to that mindset. *shudder* WARNING WARNING WARNING. That is SO UNHEALTHY. For her to then say gaining it back was hard, I feel that also sheds light on the fact that even with her controlled environment, that process was difficult on her body.

I have friends and acquaintances who have struggled with ED. It is not heartwarming to hear someone is near organ failure or that they can’t ever have children because their body is permanently changed. It is not funny to see someone you felt so close to distance themselves to hide their condition. It isn’t beautiful to see someone who was so strong and full of energy be a ghost of their former self. It isn’t something you gather around a tv and observe and try to make light of. When you offer a happy ending? Sometimes it makes a fantasy of something with an often harsh reality. How many girls will think, wow, I can get myself to that point, and then a doctor/institution will save me? How many people will feel they can jump ship and get a red and white life preserver thrown at them? I just can’t help but feel very uneasy…

Are these shows shedding light or fanning flames?

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What I Wish I Could Say to Those Who Wonder Why I’m Living at Home…

You’re in your late twenties and you live at home with your parents. What is the first thing people assume?

They assume you’re in debt, are a bum, or are mooching.

Others will do more than assume. They’ll reply, “Oh, that’s good. You can save money and pay off debt.”

Let me be clear:

– I graduated without student loans. The only debt I carry is a nominal credit card charge or two I pay off at the end of the month.

– I work a decent full time job that pays the bills. I DON’T live with my parents for free. I do pay less rent than renting a room elsewhere, but not by much.

– I have lived on my own for a few years and am capable of doing so again at the drop of a hat. Money would be a little tighter, but I would be just fine.

Here’s why I really live at home:

– I was able to increase the value of their home by moving back. I paid for them to hire a contractor to build a functional closet in the den and therefore the home has 4 official bedrooms instead of three bedrooms and a den. It’s not going to drastically increase the value, but if they choose to sell it down the road, that closet is something I can leave behind as a thank you for letting me stay here a couple more years. 

– Due to certain circumstances, my parents could use my rent as another rental is currently not making them money. My rent money provides some passive income. They used to make passive income on a rental home but that is not an option right now and my rent isn’t as much as they made on renting out a home, but it’s a good fraction of it (~25% vs nothing).

– I am silently there to help them transition into retirement. My aunt who moved away for work still owns a part of the home will be moving back soon and the house is filled with too much stuff from when we were living there as a family of four. It’s time to reduce their “stuff” and make room for my aunt’s things again. We are slowly clearing the garage, redecorating, and making things more functional for senior life.

– I was in a transitional part of my life where I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a career at my current workplace or have to search for other job options. I didn’t have the stability to sign a contract for a year somewhere or risk going into debt if something fell through at a new job and it took more interviews and searching.

– My old roommate moved states away and I do not have anyone that I trust and is reliable with a similar income to rent a house/apartment with. Good credit scores, annual income, and knowing they won’t back out is important when renting with someone else. I will only rent with another female and would not feel comfortable renting a room from a house with men.

– Renting a room from someone is complicated. More complicated than just renting from your own family and having complete house privileges. This is a big one. And I have a great relationship with my parents. They did want me to come home. In Asian culture, unmarried children are encouraged to be home rather than spend too much on renting.

– It does save me money. I have to be honest and say I do save $100-200/month renting from my parents vs renting a room elsewhere. And that does add up. It would be foolish of me to rent a studio apartment with how high rent is in my area. I’d be looking at $1200-1700 on a studio/single bedroom which is not a smart move financially.

– I don’t do well being alone. I am a pretty private person and an introvert but without reliable human interaction I am not in a good place with mental health. Being alone causes my anxiety to worsen and encourages feelings of depression. I need to be surrounded by people I like and love.

It’s frustrating because people don’t “get it” and I am not going to waste my breath explaining all of this to them. People think millennial and living at home and don’t even care to hear my side of the story.

To keep it short and sweet, I usually reply with a “Well, it works for all of us.” 

Does anyone else identify with anything I’ve written above? Please share below.