"She's a rose, she's a queen
But she's staring at a magazine
In the dark, on that path
Where they doctor every photograph
It's a fake, it's a con
The nature of the road you're on
Let me see your skeleton
Well before your life is done"
Where’s the Meaning?
Every day, 30 million Americans struggle with anorexia, bulimia, purging, and other eating disorders, according to current research from the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). The complex bio/psycho/social traumas of food issues are difficult to resolve in our always-connected matrix of social media, entertainment news, and ads that continue to present thinness as the ideal body shape. Though we see bodies of all shapes and sizes around us everyday, our newsfeeds are rife with tanned and toned -and massively edited- images of those we want to be like.
The Avett Brothers tackle this disconnect in “Another is Waiting,” conjuring skeletons lyrically as well as in the accompanying video. While the music world certainly tends to favor artists who look good on stage and in front of a camera, in “Another is Waiting,” the Brothers instead challenge the modeling industry - where designers’ fortunes are built upon the bones of hungry young men and women longing to fit in. And if they don’t fit? Their jobs are on the line, and indeed, another is waiting to fill their spot.
A January 2017 study by the International Journal of Eating Disorders found that almost two-thirds of professional models responded that they’d been asked to lose weight, with half of the respondents indicating that their job stability depended on it. But the impact doesn’t stop there. The millions of men and women “staring at a magazine,” emulating and replicating the scaled-down bodies of these models are next in line for the associated physical disasters of eating disorders: organ damage, osteoporosis, infertility, cardiac arrest.
It’s this ripple effect that’s perhaps most troubling. NEDA stats also indicate that eating disorders have a fatality rate higher than any other mental illness. Those most vulnerable to the message of “thin at any cost” are often young, lonely, and craving acceptance. Music like this from The Avett Brothers presents the same demographic with a different message: rather than sweep aside a pile of bones to clear the way for the next pretty face, we can and should cultivate conversations in which the “normal” body is every body.
- Do you know the signs that may indicate an eating disorder? What language would you use to approach a friend or family member if you suspect they are struggling with this issue?
- Conversely, what are some specific actions and talking points you could use to spark a conversation about healthy body image with those who could be vulnerable to the media’s idealization of thinness?
- How has the widespread use of photo editing software affected your own perceptions of beauty?
- Learning more about the production process for photos and videos can help us all understand that what we see on screen is not real and often not even attainable.
Volunteer as a NEDAwareness Landmark Photographer during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, February 26 – March 4, 2018.
Drug retailer CVS has recently pledged to eliminate airbrushing from its ads. Your support, whether in the form of a tweet or your shopping dollars, can signal a sea change for the beauty industry.