It's been nearly four months since the release of Netflix's teen drama series 13 Reasons Why premiered, and debates continue about whether or not the wildly popular show glorifies suicide. The network may have another controversial release on its hands with To the Bone, a film which puts the spotlight on a teen seeking treatment while suffering from anorexia. Like 13 RW, the project utilizes dynamic characters, fantastic acting, and comedy in just the right sweet spots throughout the otherwise extremely heavy content. But when sitting down with To the Bone's star Lily Collins prior to the release, she distinguishes the major difference between both stories.
Though the film comes out July 14, a conversation surrounding the film is already buzzing, as some are beginning to ask the question: Does To the Bone glorify eating disorders? According to The Daily Mail, critics have vocalized fear of creating "copycat behavior," worried that Collins' character is labeled as "thinspiration."
The actor explains that the film, unlike 13 RW, is very real and semi-autobiographical of 52-year-old writer/director Marti Noxon's experience. It's a story that simply needed to be told, and it's based on real life.
"Marti and I, both having gone through this, we would never seek out to start a conversation that would in anyway trigger, glamorize, fetishize, or encourage the disorder," she tells me. "That was never a part of our conversation in making the movie."
13 Reasons Why, based on the 2007 YA novel by Jay Asher, may be an accumulation of events that happen to teens in real life, but is not based on a true story. Collins emphasizes the importance of the reality portrayed in To the Bone. Not only is the film inspired by Noxon's life, but Collins, who experienced an eating disorder and wrote about it in her 2017 book Unfiltered, can very much relate to the content.
Collins acknowledges the comparisons, but gives audiences this message:
People, I think, are referencing [glorification] in association with 13 Reasons Why based on a two-minute-thirty-second trailer and they haven’t seen the film. It’s really important to be reminded that this story is based on one character’s experience with recovering, one character’s experience with disorder.
As a huge fan of 13 RW, I'll admit To the Bone does have a rawness that's conveyed sans mix tapes. Plus, the messages and themes in the films, although both about teen issues, are completely different. "Some of the moments that people are saying seem like characterizations of the situation, are actually in fact what happened to Marti," Collins continues. "In that regard, it’s reality. It was Marti’s reality."
Noxon previously spoke with Bustle about just how real her near-death experience was. "I was both anorexic and bulimic, and in my case I got to where I almost died, I was 69 pounds at my worst," she said.
Although the film is Noxon's baby, Collins also hopes it brings some of her truth to the light. "What I did have in the past year-and-a-half was a moment when I wanted to start talking about it," the 27-year-old tells me. "I was like, I’m gonna be 28 and I wanna have a family. I don’t want this to be something that I carry into that. This is actually where I want to go with my life." Collins has previously spoken to hopes of starting necessary conversation and breaking taboos surrounding the disease.
Bringing mental illness among teens to mainstream conversation is no easy task. Using real-life material to do so, no matter how hard it may be to swallow, could also be necessary for viewers to get help they need. It isn't glorification, it's education and prevention.