Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mortality

Last week's cover of In Touch Weekly featured photos of Nicole Richie and Angelina Jolie, tagged: "Scary Skinny! Alarming new photos of Nicole and Angelina spark more fears for their health."

But, are we really worried about their health? Sure, they look unhealthy, and perhaps we pontificate about the consequences of their being too thin, but are we really concerned about their lives? What needs to happen in order for there to be bona fide concern, in order for us to stop trying to look like them? Richie and Jolie are just the latest faces of celebrity emaciation. Their predecessors (Kate Bosworth, Keira Knightley, Kate Moss, etc.) either gained weight or somehow escaped the too-thin radar. For now.

Somehow, we've learned that the consequences of being too thin aren't that serious. Somehow, we've ignored the passing of South American models. And, somehow, we've denied the fact that anorexia has hightest mortality rate of all mental illnesses.

This weekend's New York Times featured an article on cocaine, New York's party favor du jour. The substance, as common at bars, parties, and clubs as vodka tonics, has proliferated recently, in part, because of a recent absence of publicized drug-induced casualties. As Herbert Kleber, of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, is quoted as saying, "'Drug use tends to be cyclic. . . . As some of my colleagues said, John Belushi had to die before people believed that these drugs were really dangerous.'"

Is that what it will take in order for us to wake up to the dangers of anorexia? Do we need, at least on American soil, a star to lose her life? Do we really need another Karen Carpenter?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, I could say a lot in response to this post, but I'll keep it short (I hope). First of all, I apologize if this seems coldhearted, by why should we be concerned about Nicole Richie or Angelina Jolie? They are grown women, they know what they're doing to themselves, they have friends and family who could step in and try to get some sense into them. Being skinny is obviously more important to them than their health and I'm sorry, but I'm not shedding any tears. The people I'm concerned about are the teenage daughters of friends, my nieces, other relatives and friends. I can't be worried about spoiled celebreties. And on the issue of "why" we haven't woken up yet, and what it will take- I think a lot of "ordinary" women have. Look around the internet and you will see a lot of blogs and message boards and Yahoo groups dedicated to "intuitive" eating and getting away from the tyranny of the diet industry. No, not everyone is there yet but I do have hope. What's holding us all back? Fashion designers. Fashion magazines (I haven't bought or read one in several years and wish THAT practice would spread). The media. The people who photograph models for clothing ads in newspapers, even local ones. We have a bit of power though- we can stop giving our money to diet programs, People magazine, and fashion designers who don't make clothing large enough for real women.

PalmTreeChick said...

I don't know what it's going to take for us to wake up and realize the dangers of this disorder. The people suffering from don't even see the dangers, most of the time, imagine what the people who don't even understand the disorder are thinking? How in the world are they going to understand the dangers if we don't? Well, maybe we do and we choose not to "see" them. I don't know. Any thoughts on that, Dr. Stacey?

disordered girl said...

Sadly, in American culture that is what it takes. Think about AIDS: when Rock Hudson died and Magic came down with it, there was so much more awareness than there is now. Because it's not viewed as deadly as it once was, many people don't feel the pressing need for "safe sex" that once existed...

You are right on about that article though. They aren't publishing that story and photos over concern for their health. Please.

Sarah said...

Yep. It's not concern for their health. It's voyeurism.

Alyssa said...

The main reason to worry about skinny celebs is because they ARE in the public eye, and a lot of people Do look to them for "inspiration" as to what they "should" look like. The online anorexia "support" groups are a big sign of that. These are online groups that give advice and tips on how to be anorexic, claiming it is not a disease, but a lifestyle choice.
It is especially worrying in the case of Angelina Jolie, because she gave birth a year ago and is now frighteningly thin. It has been the trend for a while now for celebs to give birth, then take off the weight quickly, often ignoring doctors' orders and working out right after giving birth. Instead of celebrating this kind of behavior, we should be calling them on it.
But I do think the tide is slo-o-o-wly starting to turn, and more people are getting tired of the ultra-skinny thing. And anonymous is absolutely right: we can protest with our wallets.

Sarah said...

I just want to clarify what I said, I'm not trying to insult anyone by calling them a voyeur. I think it's natural human instinct to look at someone else's destruction (the slow down when you pass a car accident syndrome) and we say that we're worried about their health because it gives us an excuse to look at the pictures.

Emi said...

Have to agree with anonymous about celebs. Not my problem and couldn't care less. There are lots of honest blogs about anorexia, and lots of books. But people just don't seem to get it. Then again, you can say that about most everything (I know, cynical, but sadly often true). Who wore safety belts before the laws. Bike helmets? Anyone ever see anything about epilepsy?
Anorexia is blinding for those of us who have it, and we easily fool family, friends, even docs. So I'm not surprised that the average person is fooled, or that the media is exploiting that. I just hope the people who do have it get good treatment quickly.

Eileen said...

Having 3 teen girls, all different body sizes, they are totally obsessed with the media and the images. Despite my messages of you look beautiful the way you are, just eat healthy, we need to walk, being that thin is not healthy, etc.. it is like a loosing battle. It creates actual depression with one of my girls, the impact of self esteem is awful. No matter what I do at home, what they get from peers seems to be much more powerful. Right now the media is the truth to these kids, the light, the way to be. The risks seem worth it to some of their friends. So frightening.

Chelsea said...

I agree with Eileen: while I could care less about celebs, I do know firsthand the influences that the media has on young people. As a recovered anorexic (FIVE YEARS! GO ME!) I can tell you that 95% of my problem was comparing myself to these people and how I thought women were "supposed" to look.

We should care about them for the sake of the little girls whose lives they influence.

RILAH said...

i honestly have a problem with every commenter here and the post itself, because really, are people with eating disorders supposed to "get it?"
really, does anyone think that a person on the NY club scene is going to go through an 8-ball of rails in a few hours and wake up feeling energized, healthy and prepared to undertake the Bar Exam? (okay, bad example.)
The point is this - you dont' generally get a choice with eating disorders. they're a mental condition. by this means, a schizophrenic person should wake up and get it. doesn't that sound a little easier said than done and horribly, insensitively naive?

Rachel said...

Rilah - I don't think anyone here is understimating the seriousness of the disease - just the fact that multitudes of young girls and woman also have the disease, and not just celebrities are are able to afford expensive treatments denied by health insurance companies to most other non-celebrity people.


I think Sarah nailed it on the head. I've always maintained magazines such as these don't post these seemingly well-intentioned articles out of concern for the health of celebrities. It's more so a case of one woman getting ahead of the pack.

Anorexia is more prevalent in culture today than ever, but it's just as misunderstood as it always was. I just recently read a blog post by a girl who told her friends she lost 20 pounds by "kinda" going anorexic, but assured them that she's flipped out of it since. Anorexia isn't a weight loss diet; it's a mental disease and not one you can just flip on and off.

Sparkle Pants said...

The sad thing is, if the magazines aren't saying these celebrities are too skinny, then they're saying these celebrities are too fat. There is no happy medium, there is absolutely no balance. iVillage (I think?) has a thing right now - beautiful stars over size 2. Size 2 are needed to show us that not everyone looks the same in Hollywood? Wtf is up with that?

Rachel said...

For most women, a size two is even a far-fetched and unattainable ideal. And then iVillage had to go and partner with Slim-Fast - I lost all respect for that site.

Brooke said...

I know you have not added on this site for years but I have just found it and all I can say is I am so proud of what you did, I have been fighting with just exercising and dieting for years but now I give up...I am more unhealthy now than I was before I started doing these crash diets. I am trying to love my body.