Have you ever felt “under-water”? Like a golden fish in its tank, suspended in a parallel world, glancing at a blurry “outside” but not understanding what really happens and, on the other hand, feeling watched and judged by “it”, constantly?
*”Under”: graphite sketch, London, 2017, by LL.
Almost everybody has undergone in their lives through eating-disorders or, at least, phases where the perception of the own body image affected life choices and, ultimately, the pursue of happiness. Although; how much this perception is factual, that means generated by an objective idea of beauty and success, or, instead, self-inflicted: caused by the sense of guilt for a “breakage” occurred in our lives, an “un-washable” shame of being the ones responsible for other people unhappiness (for instance our parents’)? Many children start developing body related issues when a trauma, a loss or a separation take place in their families and they are unable to process the domestic “chaos”. The first instinctive reaction is claiming back the apparent loss of control by restraining their bodies into a mental projection of perfection so to transform that lack of control into an excess of it. In some extreme cases, when physical and psychological deterioration reach higher levels, exertion of control generally becomes paralyzing fear, anger and even egoism. Self-involvement, in fact, often plays the counterpart to the experience of neglect and abandonment. Seeing parents splitting up and abusing each other, could generate the insane belief that our future as adults is doomed by feeling unable to prevent the cycle of hatred and unhappiness exemplified by the loved ones.
Western societies, with the blooming of their economies after the two world conflicts, started to develop a different idea of beauty. The wide-spread commercialisation of fashion and a supporting media-culture based on specific physical stereotypes have for sure affected many young generations since. “Mom, I want to be a model”: the fateful affirmation of many growing kids, as if beauty and its social validation were the only way to success. Which teen-ager girl, for example, has not dreamt to have the long limbed body of Barbie doll? The discussion about body image in the fashion world has been developing on-and-off for two decades or more. Every time a sickly thin model makes appearance on the cat-walks, the public eye raises the disdain "card" to then drop it again shifting distractedly its attention to the next topic brought up by the media. Also the acting world has recently undergone a profound debate about the pressure from production houses onto actresses to fit-in specific body types. Gemma Arterton, Jennifer Lawrence, Chloë Grace Moretz and many others took a stand refusing to be exclusively considered according to their ability to project an idea of unreachable beauty and publicly declare to label as harassment and bulling this sort of behaviours. The idea of physical perfection has always undermined women in the show-business but nowadays a new awareness and self-respect has born. This is why we can see public personalities like Amy Schumer who writes movies via her own production company. Her films are outrageous and comic but deeply anchored to a realistic idea of individuals. In this sense, we can trace a connection line between marginalisation of women not fitting to social-standards and other types of xenophobia (=fear of what is different from us) like towards homosexuals and ethnic minorities.
It is refreshing to see how a new class of directors is putting effort to start a discussion about being diverse and real. It has been released only a few weeks ago at Sundance film festival Geremy Jasper’s movie Patti Cake$ starring Australian actress Danielle Macdonald: a story about an a-stereotypical white female rapper finding her way to success and recognition in New Jersey. Within the clamour of this and other productions some have criticised the idea of “glamourizing” anorexia and bulimia. Nevertheless, using Lily Collins words at the junket for her Netflix movie To the bone (Marti Noxon, 2017): it is outrageous to think that any acting cast would set-up for a movie to encourage eating disorders. On the contrary, some graphic scenes about young bodies afflicted by anorexia could raise attention on the issue and start a constructive dialogue.
*Magazine cut-outs showing Danielle Macdonald and other actresses taking a stand against unfair body-image standards in Hollywood.
*Lily Collins in a phot-frame of the video interview presenting her movie “To the bone”, Marti Noxon, 22 January 2017.