Remember Tracey Gold from Growing Pains? A recovered anorexic, she’s now hosting a new Lifetime channel reality show: ‘Starving Secrets.’
Even this People magazine photograph portrays Gold’s anorexic body as glamorous.
The show, still in its first season, follows women with serious eating disorders, and gives them the opportunity to a enter into a treatment program. Critics of the show point out that it follows in the genre of made-for-TV movies like The Best Little Girl in the World, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, and For the Love of Nancy–which probably fueled more eating disorders than they discouraged.
I remember watching The Best Little Girl in the World in health class in 8th grade. It starred Jennifer Jason Leigh and generally made anorexia seem alluring and glamorous, if a bit frightening. It, and media like it, have been thinspiration–unintentionally functioning as eating-disorder inspiration. For girls and women struggling to find their story–to make meaning of their lives, an eating disorder can provide a macabre but compelling narrative.
On the other hand, some point out, insurance companies in the US provide such wimpy coverage to mental illnesses in general and eating disorders in particular (a 30-day per year inpatient cap, for example) that, for some people, participating in a ‘reality’ show represents a viable shot at obtaining treatment.
What’s your take? Do shows like ‘Starving Secrets’ do more harm than good? Do they really help anyone? Or is it just more sordid television?