Anorexia and Capitalism

The anthropologist despairs as he watches a young native girl run from the dinner table, in fear of getting fat. She refuses to eat even a bite of lettuce and her weight is now down to 78, from 136. She is in a danger zone. Her organs are failing.

The father runs out to find her in the darkness, through the woods, following her tears. “Where are you, dear?”

On the TV, Portia de Rossi, the actress star of Ally McBeal, cries as she retells Oprah about her descent into anorexic madness. Portia was lucky. She had the money (which can be as high as $250,000) for good professional help at Monte Nido in California. They helped save her life. She tells her powerful story in her best-selling book, Unbearable Lightness (2010).

But this night the father screams into the night. The little native girl is not rich. Blue Cross and Blue Shield refuse to pay for this treatment which her pediatrician, nutritionist and therapist demand, with strongly worded letters.

They’ve been struck, bewitched. It is their fault. Die.

Abandoned, the family descends into a nightmare.

Obama care means nothing. Some states (like Minnesota and New York) pay for some of this residential care, but not their state. Under neoliberalism, they’ll have to fend for themselves.

Anorexia is one of the most serious illnesses for adolescent girls and young women (and increasingly boys). Twenty percent die from this disease. Societal contributors include the media’s unrealistic, ultra-thin depiction of women, bullying, and a young girl’s search for identity during difficult life transitions. Current media focus on Portia de Rossi, wife of comedienne Ellen, is bringing attention to this growing epidemic. The bestseller “Brave Girl Eating” (2010) well describes the impact that this disease has on the family. Harriet Brown, the book’s author, is a Professor of Journalism whose daughter is now in recovery.

The native girl’s doctor again pleads with the insurers to help pay for a 60 day stay at a good facility like Portia. The insurers again say no. An attorney is hired to appeal. The native girl’s father is ineligible to take money from his retirement account until he retires and his job (which has a giant medical school) does not help. They are unable to refinance their home to pay for the native girl’s treatment in a horrid economy.

Maybe he’ll just retire at 55 and pay the 20 percent penalty. Only, where will he get another job?

Do they suffer in shame and silence, blaming themselves? Or do they act?

They watch the award-winning new film “America the beautiful, Is America Obsessed with Beauty?” by Darryl Roberts. It’s all about how the culture creates anorexia. Ebert gave it three stars. Inspired, they march on.

Somehow, with help from an unexpected source, they get her into residential treatment but they still must pay a very high co-pay. The young native lass is finally improving, but the family may go bankrupt.

“I love you daddy. I can’t wait till I’m home. I listened to Mozella’s song Stay last night and thought of us bopping in the car together.”

So it goes in a mad world, under the terror of neoliberalism, the crushing blows of an alien nation. Our bodies, whether obese or stick-figured, are the enfleshment of capital. A sign of the times.

Music is a tonic. Thank the stars for Mozella.

BRIAN McKENNA lives in Michigan. He can be reached at: mckenna193@aol.com


More articles by:

Brian McKenna is an anthropologist who teaches at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and can be reached at mckenna193@aol.com

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings