Midterm Paper – Food, Behavior, and Eating Disorders
Part I (a, b, c)
Media Depiction of the Cultivation of Fragility and its Involvement in the Etiology of Eating Disorders and the Epidemic of Body Dissatisfaction
The Virgin Suicides, 1999, Sofia Coppola
The Virgin Suicides, 1999, directed by Sofia Coppola, most notably starring Kirsten Dunst, is a film that exemplifies the idealization of female youth and purity. In nineteenth century England and America, women were encouraged to be virginal and ethereal, a “cultivation of fragility” in which women were to not enjoy rich and sensuous foods.
The film (based upon the classic novel of the same name by Jeffery Eugenides) seems as if ...view middle of the document...
Mysterious and frail beauty is present in each of the sisters, and they are very thin, not very “curvy” and very childlike, even though the oldest, Therese, was seventeen. They are all blondes, which are revered in American culture in particular.
In traditional Sofia Coppola style, the movie focuses on aesthetic and lighting. The lighting is very soft, and feminine, yet somehow sexual. Almost like the sisters- they were innocent, but Lolita-like in that they somehow possessed a significant power that came with their thin bodies and beauty. Lux, in particular was very sexually precocious and her innocence was betrayed by her writing of boys names upon her underthings and her relationship with the beautiful and popular jock, Trip Fontaine. While from afar, the girls seemed wholesome and happy under their religious household, they were unhappy and trapped- and somehow understood more than most their age. Their beauty did not please them or matter to them and a viewer may not care about that, they would care more that they were loved and remembered by the boys. Women crave that obsessive attention that is depicted in The Virgin Suicides.
The Virgin Suicides may effect a woman’s view of her body, and may result in potentially dangerous (if not lethal) disordered eating habits. A girl may wish to embody a similar ‘je ne sais quoi’ the Lisbon girls have, and want to physically look like them as well. The Lisbon girls are all very thin, and Kirsten Dunst particularly has been known to be a very thin actress. Aside from being very thin, the girls have an ephemeral beauty about them that a girl may then want to strive for after seeing the film. She may choose to skip meals or not want to eat particular foods, and begin to restrict their diet. If that fails or they struggle with dieting in general, they may turn to purging in an effort to maintain to decrease their weight to embody the thin and fragile Lisbon girl aesthetic. Someone may also turn to the abuse of laxatives, over exercising, or abusing diet pills. They too would like to feel like they are lusted after and forever remembered like the Lisbon sisters.
While the origins of an eating disorder can be attributed to a multitude of micro-factors and macro-factors that are illustrated in the multifactorial model of eating disorder causality, media exposure plays a large part in setting the foundation of disordered eating and body dysmorphia. The multifactorial model of eating disorder causality would describe the media, such as this film, as a macro-factor for the etiology of eating disorders. The effectiveness of the media in promoting an ideal of beauty in culmination with other factors such as the environment, culture, genetics, personality, family, and physiology may lead to the development of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Body Dysmorphic Disorder, and Subclinical Eating Disorders. However, The Virgin Suicides cannot be considered a direct cause in the manifestation of an eating...