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Eating Disorders of Degrassi: The Next Generation

As simple and seamless as the process of eating may seem, Degrassi: The Next Generation makes mincemeat of this very notion. Indeed, social pressures complicate the concept of sound health, especially in the years of youth. Aside from the pressures of drugs comes the necessity to achieve the ideal figure. For Degrassi students no other means of attaining the ideal figure fits more than the ever so problematic, eating disorder. Once again the producers work hard in displaying the gritty reality that is the mental health dietary deficiency. 

Eating Disorders are Not Lifestyle Choices

Coming from a familiar perspective, ie bulimia, is the comment that eating disorders are in fact mental health concerns and not a lifestyle choice. The characters Emma Nelson and Manny, seized by the pursuit of the limelight or the Hollywood experience undertake the task of purging for the perfect physique. In the episode “Our Lips Are Sealed(2)” Emma intends to help Manny and undergo in-tandem the effort of slimming down for the desired attention from Manny’s theater agent. The action begins with a seemingly harmless skipping of meals and evolves into, for Emma mainly, the purging, through self-induced vomit and starvation. By the end of the episode Manny abandons the dietary restrictions, however Emma is not so lucky. The episode closes with the scene of Manny saying through tears to Emma “You have to stop or you’re gonna die”. The doctor properly diagnoses Emma as anorexic.

Disordered Eating can Affect Anyone

Toby Isaacs, another Degrassi character also exhibits symptoms consistent with eating disorders, yet recovers without a diagnosis. In the episode “Mirror in the Bathroom” Toby competes for a spot on the wrestling team. He cannot envision a spot on the squad considering his natural weight class. As a result he engages in restrictive eating habits and eventual purging. The main issue here is not why he did it, but instead the concept that he saw this as an appropriate measure for weight management. Consequently, Toby loses his spot on the team as the producers seem to vicariously advocate for normal eating behaviors. Far too many millennials and youths convince themselves that disordered eating patterns are okay. Whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, it remains better practice to maintain a figure independent of the mainstream culture. It is okay to, as Beyonce once said, “Wake up like this.”

Photo by JC Gellidon on Unsplash

Disordered Eating is Not Okay!

The final attempt of Degrassi: the Next Generation in demonstrating the gravity of abnormal eating habits comes in the form of Katie Matlin. At first, the producers depict her as the stereotypical overachiever, excelling on the soccer field and in the classroom. However, the producers incorporate a twist, by illustrating her bulimia as a gateway. Her best friend ousts her as bulimic to her boyfriend and the downward spiral ensues. Down the slope she goes, from bulimic, to torn ACL, to opiate addiction, to relationship deterioration and then rehab. Her tenure on the show plagued, all thanks to an initial interaction with bulimia. Thankfully, the show creators reconciled their better angels and wrote in her acceptance to Stanford.

4 Out of 5 Stars For Degrassi and Eating Disorders

21 SCHIZM, likes to believe that mental illness is not a death sentence. Regardless, eating disorders carry a considerable amount of weight in terms of consequence. One person’s disorder could be another’s mortality. In fact without treatment, 20% of people with serious eating disorders die. Skipping meals one day, may lead to self induced vomiting, or as is the case with a separate Degrassi character Jenna Middleton, abuse of diet pills. In advocating against eating disorders, Degrassi The Next Generation receives 4 out of 5 stars. One fact remains, use Degrassi as a cautionary tale, achieving the ideal figure requires consistency and dedication. Body positivity and politics without a doubt should be your main goal. The objective is to love your body and be healthy .

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