Just as 13 Reasons Why faced criticism for sensationalizing of suicide, Netflix’s new film To the Bone is stirring fears about how young viewers might perceive its depiction of eating disorders. The film follows a 20-year-old woman’s battle with anorexia as she enters an inpatient facility, meets residents struggling with similar addictions, and recognizes the strain her disease has on her family.
To the Bone has been praised by some for its portrayal of anorexia as an illness, rather than simply a desire to be thin, and for its hopeful-but-uncertain ending for Eli, the protagonist. But other elements of the film — dream sequences, indie-pop music, and a romantic subplot — have parents, educators, and health professionals worried that the movie glamorizes anorexia. And while movies and shows have been depicting eating disorders for decades, the internet has made it easy for kids to watch this content anywhere, anytime, and without parents nearby — or even aware.
We asked Josephine Kim, an educator, counselor, and faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, to share her thoughts on the risks the film poses for young people, and how educators can support young viewers and create a safe space to teach about eating disorders and mental health.