Wednesday, April 1, 2009
While indulging in a nonspecific visit on YouTube, I stumbled across an alternate universe named Thininspiration aka thinspo. Here is where the 2009 version of Paris Hilton “could stand to lose a few pounds” and Mary Kate Olsen and Nicole Richie are gods!
Encapsulated in these 4-minute videos, which number in the hundreds, are beautifully lit images of the emaciated women that the viewers there aspire to be. They are clad in bikinis, or short shorts, or nothing but a demure hand over almost nonexistent breasts. These are the role models for girls and women who want to achieve the “perfect body.” This universe goes beyond, “oh, I wish I looked like Halle Berry” (whose banging post-baby body is considered by one commenter as “chunky”), but where protruding hipbones and skeletal arms are the must haves. I was on Planet Ana (short for anorexia). Where one video proclaims, “this is a lifestyle not a mental disease.”
This is a self-designed, if not self-indulgent, space. You come here to commune and share tips with other girls who have seemingly embraced the disease with open bony arms. The videos, with soundtracks of the latest pop tunes or emo flavor of the month, dole out advice like “bones are beautiful” or “take control” or “don’t let the calories kill you!” As I made my way (or weigh) further down the rabbit hole, it got stranger and stranger indeed.
The most fascinating videos were the “real girl thinspo.” Here is where we get a true glimpse of how everyday girls are translating the images of celebrities (dubbed by some as professional Anas) onto their own bodies. Flat almost concave stomachs are the prize. Multiple shots of girls looking down at their feet without their stomachs interrupting the plane of vision appears to be the glamour shot de jour. Where low-slung jeans hang off of what is left of hips, and thighs absolutely never touch. There are tons of shots of girls standing on scales, throwing scales, scales randomly in the background as the girls put make up on their ultra thin faces; all of them striving for the agreed upon perfect weight of 74 pounds. Obsessed with how close they are getting to their goal, they constantly inspect their little bodies, paper-thin skin stretched over exposed ribcages, in front of full-length mirrors, digitally recording from every angle.
For those who need tough love to stay on the thinspo wagon there are plenty of videos that threaten if you allow yourself to let food “win” you might look like this – a grotesquely distorted image of a overweight woman eating a cheeseburger flashes on the screen. Or worse yet, “do you want to be the fat friend?” A serene picture of two girls walking along the beach, one skinnier than the other, serves as exhibit B. There is even an Ana list of 57 good reasons not to eat: #3 – Guys can pick you up without struggling. #6 – People will remember you as the “beautiful thin one.” # 11 – Bones are pure and clean. Fat is dirty and hangs on your bones like parasites. To the right lost soul, who is looking for an Ana buddy, all perfectly logical arguments.
After about an hour of consuming jutting collarbones and toothpick thighs I wondered aloud why YouTube had not shut down this sideshow. It wasn’t hard to get to. Start by looking for how to do the perfect sit up, turn left at juice fasting and viola - thinspo! Wasn’t letting these channels exist like putting a baby in a crib on its stomach, surrounded by stuffed animals – a recipe for disaster?
Occasional a do-gooder/interloper comes along and tries to convince the thinspo followers that they are crazy, or wrong, or delusional, but they are summarily drowned out by testimonials of how being thin saved user tbonee’s life or that user minime was once in denial like the “fat pig” party crasher. And just like that they return to regular programming. Swapping links and websites, and pats on bony, fragile backs.