Written by S. Bowyer

Starving in Suburbia


     Starving in Suburbia is a film about anorexia and the websites online that promote it. Hannah, 17, is caused to think about her weight, and her friend shows her a pro-ana (pro-anorexia) site to show her how crazy she isn't. However, it seems to have an alternate affect. These websites (see Pro-Ana Unmasked) give tips and motivations to people -- so powerful their natural body functions are ignored and overwritten. Pro-ana sites number in the thousands and are often a mere Google search away. 



      I think the modernised twist of the film was impactual. It felt more like an arthouse film that a Lifetime channel production. This wasn't another piece where x girl from a typical neighbourhood just suddenly one day stops eating where the scenes feel constructed; we go on a journey. Music and cinematography show the degradation of the character's worlds as the dilemma unfolds. The movie delves into the support that pro-anorexia websites can give to a girl looking for a step closer to perfection. At one of these sites, Hannah meets ButterflyAna. She is a website host, who continues to compete for that perfection with her other followers, but decides to take Hannah as her personal project. The girls are soon speaking much of the time.

       When Hannah speaks to the girls on the website, we see them invited into her world. Instead of seeing simply text on a screen, we are switched to an almost imaginary-friend scene where the girls appear to be in the same room. The most high-regarded, ButterflyAna, morphs into the scenes, standing above the other girls in her haunting presence. As the movie unfolds, we see her face grow darker, as her words become more severe in Hannah's world. The scenes add some realness as the personalities online would be as real friends to her. The music is dark, as is the religious-type discussions and martyrdom they design.



      Hannah's life is completely rearranged when she meets ButterflyAna. Not only does she inspire her to exercise to extremes, avoid eating, hide food, memorise their "anorexic scripture", and other tricks to throw her family off the scent, but she becomes the motivation for Hannah to continue the impossible goals. Hannah is engulfed, being told that freedom will be hers when she can wear anything she wants, that weight loss goals become more endorphic as she gets smaller, and that happiness comes from control.

      However, there is one person in this new world that does not agree with their sentiments. HipHopK comes on the scene to warn her that ButterflyAna is dangerous. They are not identified until later, but when we find out who they are, the movie takes a completely different path and message. The big twist that nobody sees coming.

      While Hannah's family realise something is wrong, we see their powerlessness. Her mother confronts her after getting her computer hacked, but this just causes Hannah to change her passwords and her family being completely locked out to what might be happening online that encourages her to avoid food. As her malnourished brain starts to give up, Hannah's world becomes beyond their grasp. When HipHopK asks her if she's even able to eat if she wants to, Hannah is thrown into the realisation she is stuck. What will break her out? Then comes the big shock.

      Viewers of the film have mixed reviews.

      "This is a theme that women in a society that fixates on being thin and beautiful as a standard of beauty are all that matters, and anything to obtain that perfection is necessary. Having survived both anorexia and bulimia, I related to the characters need and eventual surrender to the voices haunting her inside her head, whether real or imagined."

      "Props to Lifetime for trying to put a new spin on a movie about eating disorders. The usual suspects don't drive our pretty protagonist to starvation. Instead, it's a website -- more specifically, a woman named "Ana" who runs a website encouraging people to stop eating. . .Just when you think you've found a Lifetime movie without a bad man, well, you see that you haven't. And that's one of the surprises."

      Starving in Suburbia AKA "Thinspiration" can be found on many online video websites, such as youtube.com.



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