The Student Life: Scripps College

The Student Life: Scripps College

Film Screening at Scripps Raises Eating Disorders Awareness
March 9, 2007
by Ali Standish

Over 200 people attended the Scripps Humanities Institute's screening of the documentary THIN and the subsequent panel discussion with the film's director Lauren Greenfield last Thursday at Garrison Theater.

This event was seen by many as a much-needed step in recognizing the role that eating disorders play in the everyday lives of college students, a step that might lead to a much larger campaign against eating disorders at the 5Cs.

Greenfield's documentary, which was filmed at Renfrew Rehabilitation Center in Florida, focuses on four women, ages 15 to 30, who are fighting to overcome either bulimia or anorexia. First shown at Sundance Film Festival in 2006, the film went on to win Best Documentary at Jackson Hole Film Festival.

“I've been exploring issues of gender, youth culture, and body image,” said Greenfield, who is an acclaimed photographer, director, and writer.

“Eating disorders are the most pathological body project,” she said. “It's a life-threatening illness, and the research in eating disorders is very, very poor.”

Spokespersons for the Humanities Institute and Greenfield agree that it is crucial that college students be more knowledgeable about the issues presented in the film. Though one in seven American women under the age of 25 will suffer from an eating disorder, Greenfield asserted that college students are really the risk group.

“We thought it was incredibly important to get this film out here,” said Susan Rankaitis, a member of the Humanities Institute. “It's incredibly relevant to our college community.”

Part of the controversy of the film is the center itself. Most of its patients relapse and the girls are horrible to each other and get others expelled from the center.

Despite the enthusiasm of the presenters, some viewers did not receive the film favorably.

While Yael Friedman SC '09 recognized that the film was created with good intentions, she also had reservations about the nature of such a documentary.

“It seemed very voyeuristic,” she said. “I really see this film as a kind of perpetuating this identity.”

Regardless of whether the film achieved its desired effect, critics and supporters alike agreed that it elicited a passionate, and sometimes tearful, response from panel members, who ranged from RA's to professors, as well as a strong response from members of the audience. Many attendees asserted that that the 5C's could do more to address eating disorders.

Gail Abrams, a professor of dance at Scripps and member of the panel, agreed.

“One of the biggest problems we have in our culture is the separation of mind and body,” she said.

Fortunately, for some attendees, the event was a source of hope as well as a source of information. The panel and planners announced plans to have a week-and-a-half long awareness campaign across the campuses, as well as offer a retreat focusing on the cohesion of body and spirit.

Although the film was controversial, it led to a general conclusion that more must be done to support eating disorder victims and raise awareness about the issue itself. The overwhelming outcry that something more be done at the 5C's to address this problem suggests that in the future, eating disorders will be an issue that cannot be ignored.