By Elizabeth Ayiku
I’m an African American woman and I’ve had some form of eating disorder ever since I was 8 years old.
As a filmmaker and film-lover in general I’ve seen my share of films that deal with the subject of eating disorders, but I can honestly say that I’m yet to see one that really resonates with me. Aside from the fact that they usually feature the same thin white female as the lead (never a ‘non-sick’ looking person of color!) I have other reasons as well:
1) The emotions behind the behaviors are almost always left out to the story. The character might be on the brink of death and constantly using dangerous behaviors, but we never really understand why. The focus tends to only be on the physical things that happen to the body and not what is happening emotionally.
2) The films are usually about life inside full-time residential treatment. We don’t see what recovery looks like when you’re not able to check yourself into a live-in facility.
3) And finally the mental health aspect is usually never discussed. So much of having an eating disorder is using behaviors to cover up feelings of depression, anxiety, and general despair; yet the movies that I’ve seen do not shed light on that at all.
I really believe these are some of the reasons why people do not have a better understanding of eating disorders or who they affect.
After years of being angry and frustrated about the misrepresentation of eating disorders in mainstream films, I decided it was finally time to do something about it. As a result, I am currently in pre-production for a feature film which will show a different side of eating disorder recovery. The film, Me Little Me, will follow an African American woman who is attending an intensive outpatient treatment program while also working a full-time job, and carefully trying to balance the two worlds.
My hope for this film is not only to dispel the stereotypes around eating disorders, but also to help other people of color who are currently struggling know that they are not alone; and most importantly, to have more accurate representation in film.