“Feed” Review by a recovered anorexic

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I was filled with excitement upon the discovery that Troian Bellisario had written, produced, and starred in a film, inspired by her own struggle with anorexia nervosa. The film has been the most accurate film, to date, to portray the struggle of an eating disorder. A common misconception among the uneducated is that eating disorders are inspired by vanity. The reality, as the film correctly portrays, is that eating disorders are primarily about control. Anorexia is an attempt to gain control through extreme food restriction. This idea is brought about through a thought, a voice. The voice initially appears to be a friend and be looking after your best interest. This voice, or alter ego, requires obedience in exchange for perfection. The price initially seems small. But, obedience soon becomes deadly. Disobedience results in punishment by extreme anxiety or rigorous exercise without replenishment of food. The voice encourages one to reduce hunger by sleeping, fill up on liquids, or in extreme situations, purge through vomiting or use of laxatives.

The idea to personify Olivia’s eating disorder through her late brother, Matt, is genius. Audience members who have never struggled with the disease fail to comprehend why one would listen to such a destructive voice. But, in personifying ED as a trusted confidant and ultimately, a “safe” person, the audience may be able to comprehend why such a narrative may seem appealing. Matt, initially, is friendly and comforting. He encourages her to make sacrifices in order for her to reach her goals, such as losing sleep to study vigorously in order to maintain valedictorian status. The requests surrounding food initially begin as requests to “save” food for him, leading Olivia to bury uneaten food under the tree in the backyard. Towards the middle of the film, he becomes aggressive. He refuses to let her eat, even within the eating disorder facility where is she is receiving inpatient treatment. He encourages her to commit suicide. The voice begins to contrast sharply from the initial voice we met at the beginning of the film. This is how ED integrates himself into the life of victims. ED secures his role as a trusted friend and later reveals his identity as a masked murderer. Hence, portraying this “voice” as a brother can ultimately connect to an audience who is unable to comprehend from a level of experience

The end of the film was ultimately an eye-opening experience for me. “Eating Disorder Matt” visits Olivia on her first lunch allowed outside of the facility. He plays a song on the jukebox. Olivia closes her eyes and takes a deep breath to find that ED has left, as she struggles to eat her salad without anxiety. This was eye opening and validating for me, because it reaffirms that ED never really leaves. ED is an addiction, just like cocaine or heroin. I am an addict. Every single day I struggle not to derive my self-worth by what I put in my mouth. An addict can be “clean,” but they will always be an addict. I have been “clean” from ED from a number of years, but, I will always be an addict to counting calories, extreme dieting, and dangerous exercise regimens to create an illusion of being in control of my life. In the same way you would not take an alcoholic to bar, I am required to stay away from calorie counting apps, health magazines, and special diets. A person who has never struggled from an eating disorder may find these helpful. These items could result in fatal tragedies from me. I often feel a high from starving myself. I feel powerful. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize this is not healthy. But, neither is the “high” derived from narcotics.

What makes my addiction so difficult is that I can never disengage from it completely. Heron and cocaine addicts must completely be off their drugs. But, I see food every single day. I eat three times a day. Thus, staying “clean” requires more effort than any other addiction. Every day, I battle with the voice that calls me a “worthless piece of shit” for eating a chocolate chip cookie. Every night, I battle with the voice that tells me I’ll be worthy once I weigh less than 100 pounds. I’ve learned to ignore ED. I know he’s dangerous. But, his tactic is to enter with compassion, love, and confidence: everything he is not.

When ED appears, I have to remind myself of the the time my heart almost stopped one night or the time I was leaning over a toilet seat for eating what I thought was too much Halloween candy. The film feed was brilliant. It exposed ED’s many disguises. It was “spot on” in portraying the true nature of living with the disease, and the lifelong struggle of being one of ED’s victims.




Review on the Finale of Pretty Little Liars

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Months ago, I said goodbye to one of my long-time favorite shows and character. I discussed how my love of the show stemmed from a love of mystery and served as a parallel to my own life. It held up a mirror that glamorized the flaws, imperfections, and blemishes. I too, had a high school stalker who would send anonymous e-mails. It was discovered that the person behind the facade was someone who I considered, at the time, to be a close friend. The reveal of Mona Vanderwaal as the infamous first -A was inexplicably familiar. I also grew up with a very huge secret being held from me. The series made secrets look sexy instead of painful. It made betrayal seem exciting, rather than abysmal. It portrayed grief as suspenseful rather than despairing. Pretty Little Liars provided me with an outlet to face personal betrayal, secrets, and grief, without an ounce of pain. This only lasted up until the end of the first half of season 7. As Mary Drake held a shot Spencer in her arms and revealed to her that she was her biological mother, I too felt like I had been shot. For years, I had used this show as a crutch to deal with secrets and standing in front of me was the biggest secret that had ever been kept from me. It shattered that mirror with the glamorized version of me and I was forced to look into a mirror that portrayed the truth. I was hurt. I was betrayed. For the first time, I was angry and no one seemed to understand why, except for Spencer Hastings.

The approach of the finale was a bittersweet event for fans across the world. I was devastated that I could not watch live because I had class: Counseling Skills and Techniques. But, I waited patiently and after class, drank a coffee that would keep me up all night. I already had sided with fan theories that Spencer’s twin would be the masked villain behind Monopoly Alive! It seemed to make the most sense, as a new character would be able to fill in previous plot holes, while at the same time, appease fans with a familiar face. Plus, I was excited to see Troian act as a double. The idea of making one of the Liars have a secret twin had to be done. The book series is wrapped around twins and as a writer myself, I see how it could lack taste to take the finale in another direction. I. Marlene King has already made the show her own, separate from the books. So, there had to be a tribute to Sara Shepard in some way. After all, without her, there would be no Pretty Little Liars. But, here is where writing a show that stretches across nearly a decade is different from writing a book series. The show aired for seven years. For me, these seven years took place from ages 19-26. Fans who started watching at 14 are now 21. The finale did not reflect the maturity and growth that realistically took place over seven years! Season one was written for teenagers (and young adult stragglers, just like my 19 year old self) and so was the finale. It was written for the audience that the pilot attempted to hook. It wasn’t written for the current audience, seven years later.

Being adopted myself, I’ve been in the position of meeting new people who look exactly like me, who I once knew nothing about. So, having a secret twin doesn’t seem far fetched to me. What does seem crazy is that Mary Drake never mentioned that she gave birth to twins. Once the cat was out of the bag, why lie anymore? Why keep anymore secrets? Suppose she didn’t know whether or not her daughter was alive. It would not make a difference. I know of plenty of people, unfortunately, who are surviving twins. People who have passed or have been assumed to have passed are generally not secrets. This part was not thought out, as most of the writing on this show.

The finale was practically a plagiarism of The Parent Trap. A British twin? Really? Of all the unique and endless ideas of how to incorporate an unknown twin into a storyline, they chose one that was practically already taken. Apparently, the UK, in PLL land has a population of about 20 people because Wren happened to stumble upon this twin at a bar and had it not been for this one meeting, Alex would never have known about Spencer. Poor Wren, in reward for his efforts, was murdered and turned into a diamond. Wren’s storyline honestly made me incredibly angry. So many unsolved mysteries in this show that were devoted no time to, but they decided to kill a character who goes as far back as the pilot. His death served no purpose to the storyline. It was just placed there for shock-value. Shock-value is great, but not when you have an assembly line of unanswered questions.

Alex Drake’s story was absolutely tragic. She was sold to a couple in England. The couple no longer wanted her and left her in an orphanage. She ran away from the orphanage at the age of ten and lived on the streets, fending for herself. The evil orphan storylines made for some good movies. So, I’m not surprised that PLL writers couldn’t think for themselves and create a more unique motive. At the point of the finale, Alex was aware that Mona was Charlotte’s killer. So, why go to elaborate lengths to build an underground dungeon, sabotage Aria’s wedding, and lock up her sister? Being abandoned as a child can lead to attachment issues and maybe a bitchy attitude, but there’s no correlation between being abandoned and then investing thousands upon thousands of dollars on stalking your twin sister and her friends.

Did anyone else notice that nobody reacted to the fact that they were seeing double? Ezra didn’t even seem shocked that he was locked in this underground dungeon of a Spencer doppelganger. At the very end, the girls never even mention Alex once. The finale never showed the reactions of Spencer’s parents to the fact that Spencer has a twin. Not to mention, Peter Hastings is Alex’s birth father. Does he not have the right to know that he has yet another daughter? Knowing the Hastings, they would have been happy to take her in. Alex could have lived happily ever after with the parents she so desperately needed, the sister she never had a chance to grow up with, and the friends she wanted. They forgave Charlotte. Apparently, her transgressions were forgivable because she was trans and marginalized. But, being abandoned and living on the streets is not understood as a tragedy in Rosewood.

I thought that perhaps, this summer, I would be able start watching the show from season one and catch every clue that led up to Alex Drake. But, unfortunately, A.D. was never the head of the operation. She just showed up late in the game. It seems like such a poor plot to have three separate bullies, each with the same exact approach. It would have been more realistic and believable for one villain to have had several minions, controlled through blackmail. These four girls never did anything so terrible to merit the same abuse over and over. They really did not piss so many people off. Sure, someone could be a victim of circumstance, but… three times? It would have required less suspension of belief to have made A.D. or Uber A the antagonist of the series, rather than the antagonist of the season. If she were just the villain of the season, there was no need for thirty extra episodes. Additionally, there were clues along the way that led fans to believe that A.D. had been in charge throughout the series. Mona, herself, referred to A as a team. The plot holes in Charlotte’s story paved the way for the fans to believe that she was lying.

We all held out hope that the finale would captivate the appreciation of fans. This group of writers got to work with such an incredible cast, which I had the pleasure of meeting. The tragedy of the series was truly that these talented individuals could not work with a plot that reflected their incredible attributes.