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
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Do We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring