I had the pleasure of being a guest on Incel this week.
Host Naama Kates and I discussed a wide range of topics—of course, incels, porn, the trajectory of the dating industry, looksmaxxing, and whether there was any overlap between pro-anorexics and incels. You probably know my answer to the latter question already: yes. Anorexia touches everything on the Internet, both implicitly and explicitly.
I’m firm believer that a fundamental dissatisfaction with the body is an essential piece of any digital-first community. I think often of what Henry Jenkins said of what drives fans to remix their fan objects: it starts with not being satisfied with the original work. This holds true for everything, I think, including and especially our bodies.
One thing that crossed my mind during my conversation with Naama was that we seem to have forgotten the symbiotic relationship between pro-anorexia internet communities and the media that existed between 1997 and maybe 2007, 2008. Give or take a few years on each end, but that’s my guess. More generously, we might say 1990 to 2010.
It’s not only that pro-anorexics re-appropriated symbols from movies, TV, and music and imbued anorexia in them. We were also living in a sort of “Golden Age of Anorexia.”
Many major celebrities had eating disorders or there was speculation about whether they did; supermodels had mainstream relevance; talkshow specials and Lifetime movies about pro-anorexia proper or simply eating disorders were everywhere. There was almost always an anorexia subplot in teen movies, implied or clearly stated; the aesthetics of ballet were everywhere; diet culture had a renaissance.
At the tail end of this period, I also noticed three things pop up: cutting was mainstreamed, teen suicide and depression became hot button issues, bisexuality became more anchored in middle and high school life as opposed to a quirky thing that college students got up to at parties, Gay-Straight Alliances started forming with more regularity, and the emo subculture exploded.
I want to be perfectly clear here: I am not trying to delegitimize being a homosexual or bisexual or the realities of mental illness. I am simply speaking here of public/media perception.
Anyway—I think it’s food for thought.
I’m surprised that this hasn’t come up yet, but then, knowing what I know now about the power of even posing the question, I have a feeling it might soon enter the discourse…
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