Lifetime network premiered “Starving in Suburbia,” Saturday, April 26. The movie takes a dark and gruesome look into the social media world of “thinspiration” or “pro-ana,” which purportedly is a phenomenon throughout social media about promoting anorexia and eating disorders.
In the movie, Hannah is a high school senior (Laura Wiggis) who feels pressured to maintain a thin ballerina physique. Seemingly, her pressure stems from seeing her competitive dancers as thin. There’s also pressure within her family dynamic to get into college and maintain a certain lifestyle. Throughout the film, it is also learned that her younger brother, Leo (Brendan Meyer), struggles to maintain his weight for wrestling. Hannah’s mother places pressure on her to be a “perfect child,” and Leo’s father is pressuring him to keep up his physique for his wrestling career. As the household becomes intense and filled with various stressors, Hannah begins to lose control.
While with a friend, she’s introduced to a “thinspiration” website [a website that focuses on maintaining a thin lifestyle through excessive weight loss and dieting]. Hannah, who is already beginning to lose control of her life, becomes obsessed with losing weight. Through the website, she learns to set a goal weight. Hannah sets her goal at losing five pounds; however, her preoccupation with pro-ana drives her to lose more and more weight. After Hannah gains a pro-ana buddy named, ButterflyAna (Izabella Miko), she loses sight of her health and is encouraged to continue losing weight.
Hannah’s parents are initially in denial about her eating disorder. After her mother realizes the severity in the disease, her parents have her assessed. Hannah is diagnosed with anxiety and Eating Disorder NOS, and later is admitted to outpatient treatment. Hannah struggles to connect with getting better, and she continues to engage in the social world with her ‘Ana’ friends. Hannah refuses to open up to anyone outside of her pro-ana circle and it takes a toll on her overall health and mental state. Her brother offers support, but regretfully isn’t able to be there for her physically because he’s busy with wrestling.
Her mother Joey, which is played by Callie Thorne, wants to support Hannah, but doesn’t know how to support Hannah in her dark times. Her mother feels overwhelmed and fears her daughter’s erratic mood swings, at times. Hannah becomes enthralled with pro-ana and her mental state worsens. She also becomes paranoid due to lack of sleep and malnourishment.
Hannah eventually works on her health through treatment after tragedy occurs.
The movie does a great job of showing the dangers of eating disorders and social media. Although it is dark throughout the story and is highly dramatize, it's able to compel an audience and better assert the seriousness of mental illness. Furthermore, the way that the story is written, younger viewers are able to connect and understand.
“Starving in Suburbia” premiered Saturday, April 26 on Lifetime.