Bill has to leave in a few days to work distantly for three weeks. Meanwhile, I’m a bit worried about Arran, who doesn’t seem like himself. This is the third year Bill has had an extended TDY at this time of year. It seems like every year, something causes angst. A couple of years ago, Arran had worms that were causing some similar symptoms that he’s experiencing now– gas, intermittent vomiting, and lethargy. He recently has had a mast cell tumor removed and sometimes they can cause stomach upset. Of course, he might also have worms. So, on top of everything else that has to be done before Bill leaves on Saturday, we have to get him to the vet for a checkup.
Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing to watch Growing Pains and I am convinced that at least one of the writers had a prejudice against overweight people. Not only were there many fat jokes directed at Tracey Gold’s character, Carol Seaver, but there were also a lot of fat jokes in general. For instance, yesterday, I was watching an episode in which Alan Thicke’s character was giving therapy to a guy whose wife had decided to go back to work and that was upsetting to him. He asks the guy what had changed in five years and the patient says, “She got fat.” Then, later in the episode, he says something about how she “waddled” home from work.
Another thing I noticed is that post Kirk Cameron’s conversion to Christianity (alliteration extraordinaire!), the word “hell” was used very seldom. Instead, they all say “heck”. I could probably turn it into a drinking game. “What the heck is this?” “What the heck is going on here!” “Heck no!” And all of the characters speak like this. They also all say “stinkin'” a lot. Indeed, there is a minor character named “Stinky Sullivan” who apparently farts a lot or wears dirty underwear. In real life, people wouldn’t all speak the same way like that, which makes me think the writers were getting a bit lazy. I mean, I could see someone say “stinkin'” as a habit, but an entire cast? One person must have been doing all of the writing or editing, or something.
And finally, Growing Pains was obviously ABC’s answer to NBC’s Family Ties. And Kirk Cameron was supposed to be their answer to Michael J. Fox, who gets mentioned a time or two on the show. However, instead of making Kirk’s character smart, like Fox’s Alex P. Keaton was, they make him a poor student. And instead of making Carol Seaver “dumb” like Justine Bateman’s “Mallory” was, they make her super smart. Ben, like Jennifer Keaton, is kind of lovable and offbeat. And then they had the bonus change of life baby, only on Family Ties, it was partly because Meredith Baxter was pregnant in real life. She had a boy, and Joanna Kerns’ character, Maggie Seaver, had a girl.
I realize I’m expending a lot of mental power on an 80s era sitcom. Growing Pains was a show I thought I didn’t like that much. I remember losing interest in it before it ended in 1992. I think I do prefer Family Ties for a lot of reasons. But it has been interesting to watch the show again. It’s better written than I remembered it, but not as well-written as Family Ties is. And all the misogynistic jokes about looks and weight are kind of disturbing, especially given that Tracey Gold did end up with a pretty serious eating disorder.
As is my habit, I’ll watch the rest of the episodes and move on to my next binge watching marathon. Hopefully, that will help while away the time I’ll be alone, worrying about Arran. He is about twelve now, so it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that he’s sick with something scary. On the other hand, he’s not been totally debilitated. He’s still eating, playing, sleeping, and taking walks, for instance. But his behavior is still a bit odd.
I’m pretty irritated that Bill has to go TDY, especially since Germany is supposedly in another wave of COVID-19. I will be completely alone, except for the dogs. In another era, I wouldn’t have minded so much, but the older I get, the more this kind of stuff bothers me. And I have to admit, I’m worried that Arran is not well.
And finally… I wrote yesterday about how Kendra Duggar was still pregnant. Well, it turns out she had her baby girl on February 19, 2021. The new baby is named Brooklyn Praise. I guess we should be glad she didn’t name her Saint or Psalm. However, when I think of the name “Praise”, it makes me think of this…
The Duggars now have 20 grandchildren and half the kids aren’t married yet. That is one hell of a quiverfull of Republican fundies they’ve got there.
I know I’ve been writing a lot about eating disorders lately. I wasn’t actually planning to write about them again today. However, as today happens to be the first day of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I think it’s kind of appropriate to write one more post. If you’re surprised there’s an actual week in February devoted to fighting eating disorders, you shouldn’t be. This has been an annual event for at least twenty years. I remember being a temp at the College of William & Mary back in 1998 and seeing posters for this week plastered all over the Blow Building, which was where I was working in the office of admissions.
Lately I’ve been passing the time watching old episodes of the 80s era family friendly comedy, Growing Pains, and I’ve finally reached the fourth season. Season four is when Tracey Gold, who played middle child, perfect Carol Seaver, started to become noticeably thinner. We didn’t know, at the time, that she was developing anorexia nervosa and would eventually drop her weight from 133 pounds to about 80 pounds.
Yesterday, I happened to see the episode “Homecoming Queen”, which originally aired on November 23, 1988. I was sixteen years old then, and pretty obsessed with dieting myself. I’m not sure I was still a Growing Pains fan at that point, though. The show had kind of jumped the shark by then, and I had a lot of other things going on at the time. It’s interesting to watch it now. I’m finding that it was a pretty decently written show, even in season four, which was the season in which the Seavers had their change of life baby, Chrissy. Anyone who grew up in the era of sitcoms knows that new babies or adopted kids always end up on the show as the original kids get too old.
The plot for “Homecoming Queen” is centered around Carol, who is nominated by her peers to be in the Homecoming court. Carol is shocked that they would think she’s pretty and popular enough to be queen. She sees herself as fat and ugly, and unworthy to be Homecoming Queen. She even considers refusing the honor, but ends up running when her competition erroneously assume she’s trying to sway people by being falsely humble.
About ten minutes into the episode, we see Carol having a terrible nightmare. Surrounded by her beautiful competition for Homecoming Queen, Carol is dressed in unflattering overalls that make her look huge. She’s wearing glasses and her hair is short and frumpy. As the principal and her peers laugh at her, Carol falls through the stage because she’s so fat. Then, her brother Mike, who constantly rides her about her weight, comes out and humiliates her, saying she’s “merely going through a stage…” as everyone laughs at her literally “going through a stage” because she’s so fat.
Tracey Gold has said that the fat jokes on Growing Pains were one reason why she became so preoccupied with her weight. As I watch that show now, I can see how the fat jokes really ramped up a lot in seasons 3 and 4, which was ironically when Tracey Gold was getting noticeably thinner. I don’t notice them as much in the earlier seasons, when she was legitimately heavier and her character was presented as nerdier and plainer. She gained some weight in 1988, but then lost about twenty five pounds with the help of a doctor, who put her on a 500 calorie a day diet.
Tracey Gold has also said that she had been diagnosed with the early symptoms of anorexia nervosa when she was eleven years old. I remember reading about that when I was in the eighth grade, years before she truly got sick with an eating disorder, around 1990 or so.
It seems especially tone deaf and wrong that the writers on Growing Pains saddled the Carol Seaver character with so many jokes about her weight, especially since she clearly wasn’t overweight at all. They also included “ugly” jokes, but I don’t notice as many of those as “fat” jokes. In fact, on the “Homecoming Queen” episode, Alan Thicke, who plays psychiatrist dad Jason Seaver, is shown offering Carol a piece of cake. When she says something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m not fat enough for you?” Jason starts to say, “Sure you are…” but then stops himself.
By 1991, the producers of Growing Pains, who had originally urged Gold to lose weight, suspended her from the show because she had become so skeletal. They required her to get treatment for her eating disorder before they would allow her back on the show. She did appear for the series finale in 1992, but she hadn’t recovered by then. She says that in one of the last scenes, the family is shown eating pizza and it’s very obvious that she was faking it. She says she’d forgotten how to hold a piece of pizza. I’m sure it was very traumatizing for her. Kind of like a phobia.
Which leads me to an opportunity for a nice segue… I’ve mentioned this before, but I think I wrote about it on my original Blogspot version of this blog. I happen to have a food related phobia myself– mycophobia, which is an irrational fear of mushrooms. I am a lot better than I used to be. When I was a small child, we lived in England, and there were huge toadstools in our backyard. I remember my parents telling me to never touch the mushrooms. I didn’t like mushrooms to start with, but somehow the directive not to touch them really hit home in an extreme way. I got to the point at which I would freeze and scream bloody murder if I simply saw one in the yard.
I remember my dad was pretty exasperated by my adverse reaction to mushrooms. He was kind of an old school disciplinarian and used to try to force me to eat everything on my plate. I actually have aversions to a number of foods, like unmelted cheese and most dairy products. I think this is because when I was very young, I was allergic to cow’s milk and it would make me vomit. To this day, I don’t drink plain milk, and aside from ice cream and butter, don’t eat most dairy products unless they’re in something. Like, I can’t bring myself to taste cream by itself, although I like it in coffee, and I would never eat a piece of cold cheese that hasn’t been melted. The flavor and the texture completely gross me out. Forget about any kinds of strong cheeses. I will vomit.
A couple of weeks ago, Bill made nachos with melted cheddar cheese. I can normally eat melted cheese, even if it’s cooled off. But on that day, the cheddar had a flavor that overwhelmed and ultimately disgusted me. I ended up throwing up. I do like some mild cheeses in things. I love dishes like lasagna and mac and cheese, and I like pizza, although as a child, it took many years before I would eat it. I can even eat cold pizza with cheese on it. I’ve read that some people can’t eat melted cheese, but they can eat it unmelted. Humans are so strange.
Anyway, yesterday, The New York Times ran an article about mushrooms, complete with a photo. I generally hide photos of mushrooms because even though I don’t run screaming from the room anymore, the sight of them makes me cringe and shudder. I imagine my reaction to mushrooms is much like Tracey Gold’s stated aversion to a lump of butter, back when she was very sick with anorexia.
I tried to hide the article, but for some reason, I wasn’t able to. I mentioned it on Facebook, and everybody laughed, which is rather predictable behavior among so-called friends. Now… I can understand why people laugh at this. I have a phobia, and many people think phobias are funny, especially when they are regarding something as ridiculous as mushrooms. So I don’t really blame people for laughing at my trauma. They’re ignorant and insensitive for doing so, but I can understand why they laugh. It’s probably my fault for mentioning it, although I mention it because it’s one of the many things that makes me unique. However, I did point out that people were laughing, but I was being very candid.
The photos on the New York Times piece weren’t too bad. The fungus looked more like sea anemones than mushrooms (to be honest, just typing that word skeeves me out a bit). I really get creeped out by pictures of mushrooms in food or toadstools (again– yecch). Like, they make me very uncomfortable. If sometime tried to make me eat one, I would probably have a full blown anxiety attack. Indeed, I did have them when I was a child and my control freak father would try to force me to eat things I didn’t want. Years later, he would call me a “hog” and shame me for being too fat.
A few years ago, I remember trying to eat a dish that had mushrooms in it at a fancy restaurant and I just couldn’t do it. They had to bring me a version without ‘shrooms. And this issue has come up at restaurants and when I’ve been invited to people’s houses for a meal. It’s always embarrassing to try to explain why I can’t eat mushrooms. Many times, people laugh out loud. I know it’s absurd.
You’d think I could tell people in the restaurant that I have an allergy. However, having worked in restaurants myself, I know that that’s also problematic, because the staff will then worry about my having a reaction. I don’t have an allergy, so I don’t want them to freak out about potentially causing anaphylactic shock or something. I won’t have a physical reaction if something I eat comes into contact with mushrooms. But if I can see, smell, or taste them in my food, the meal will be ruined, and I might end up vomiting or worse. I don’t mind if Bill eats them at a restaurant or something, although out of kindness to me, he doesn’t buy them at the grocery store and doesn’t cook with them at home. He’s also been known to switch plates with me if I order something that has them and his dish doesn’t. We have had situations, though, where both dishes have had mushrooms and I’ve had to get something else.
I once thought about becoming a chef, but ultimately decided not to when I realized that my phobia would probably be very problematic. In fact, sometimes my phobia has even led to embarrassing altercations. Below is a repost of a piece I wrote in 2017 for my original blog on Blogspot. I don’t expect anyone to read it– extra credit if you do– but it kind of illustrates how this issue sometimes pops up in my life. Incidentally, the obnoxious guy who laughed at me because of my phobia was recently fired for undisclosed reasons, and they never did spend all of the money that was left for their “party” at the Biergarten…
Phobias are not funny… (originally posted July 20, 2017)
Have you ever met someone with whom you immediately clash? I think that happened to me last night. Despite my rather funny personality, I don’t actually like parties very much. I have a tendency to get carried away sometimes, especially when I’m in the company of certain types of people. Not everyone can take my sense of humor and I don’t enjoy offending people. Sometimes I do, despite my best efforts.
Last year, the guy who hired Bill moved on to a new job in Hawaii. He left behind a huge collection of euro coins, which he donated to everyone he worked with. The coins were all counted and it came to the euro equivalent of about $800, which was used to pay for last night’s gathering at a biergarten (and, in fact, not all of the money was spent). It was a farewell dinner of sorts, since the company Bill has been working for lost its contract and many of the people who have been working with Bill are moving on to new jobs and/or locations.
We arrived too late to sit at the table that was already started, so we sat at a second table that had been reserved. Soon we were joined by another couple, the male half of whom will continue to be Bill’s co-worker because they were both hired by the new company that is taking over. The first thing that happened was the guy came up, looked at me, and said “Who do you belong to?”
I answered that I am Bill’s wife. He then made some crack about my being the daughter of the other guy sitting across from me. I’m not really sure what that was all about. Bill had told me a bit about this guy being a bit obnoxious and full of himself, so I wasn’t that surprised at his comment. This guy also referred to me as “Jen”, when I introduced myself as “Jenny”. That also happens to be a pet peeve of mine, when someone takes it upon themselves to change my name, especially when they’ve just met me.
I noticed his wife sitting in the corner with their son, whom I had met before. He is a very bright kid for his age and already speaks German pretty well. I could tell he is the apple of his mother’s eye. She was doting on him quite a bit.
As the evening wore on, Bill and I found ourselves talking about different subjects, including one of the Space A “hops” we took a few years ago. Bill told everyone about how we landed in Georgia after an overseas flight from Germany. We were really jet lagged. He’d gone out to get us some dinner. I would have been just fine with something from the nearby Wendy’s, but Bill decided to go the extra mile. He noticed a restaurant across the street and ordered take out. He brought back steaks, not realizing that they had been smothered with mushrooms.
If you’ve been reading this blog, you may already know that I do not eat mushrooms. In fact, I have a phobia of them. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s the truth.
So anyway, I opened the carton he handed me and was immediately confronted by this piece of meat covered with ‘shrooms. They were totally grossing me out. I was pretty exasperated because I was exhausted and hungry. All I’d really wanted was a sandwich, and if Bill had just gotten something at Wendy’s, I could have had a sandwich and gone to bed. Instead, I was sitting there with what could have been a nice dinner that was rendered completely unappetizing due to the fungus. Aside from that, I was annoyed that a restaurant would put mushrooms on a steak without advertising that they were going to do so.
Bill was telling this story and people were wondering why I didn’t just scrape off the mushrooms. And that’s where the whole mushroom phobia story came in. Phobias are, by nature, ridiculous, irrational, and perhaps even funny. However, if you actually have a phobia, it’s not really a laughing matter.
My whole life, I’ve been laughed at for having a fear of mushrooms. When I was a kid, family members even chased me with them and yukked it up when I reacted with fear. I can mostly laugh about it now… and the phobia is not nearly as bad as it used to be. For instance, I no longer scream when I am confronted with mushrooms. I don’t like having them on my plate and I refuse to touch them or eat them, but I won’t freak out or anything. I still have a phobia, though.
I used to think I was the only person with this problem, but then I wrote an article about mycophobia (fear of mushrooms). In my article, I even referenced an episode of The Montel Williams Show that was about phobias. There was a woman on that show who was afraid of mushrooms and reacted the very same way I did when I was much younger. She actually saw my article and sent me an email. I got so many comments and emails from people who have unusual phobias and happened to read my article. In fact, a quick YouTube search turns up a number of videos about mycophobia (mushroom phobia).
I was trying to explain this last night. I will admit, a phobia of something weird like mushrooms sounds hilarious if you don’t make an effort to understand what having a phobia is like. I have been in some embarrassing and annoying situations due to this problem, but I can see why some people think it’s funny.
Of course, Bill’s co-worker thought my mushroom phobia was totally hilarious. He was cracking jokes and hysterically laughing at me, as was his son. I was trying to explain the origins of the phobia, which started when I was a little kid, and he was just having a knee slapper of a time laughing. I had been drinking beer, so I was feeling my oats. And I let loose with some really far out insults involving his testicles being covered with fungus. I’m sure whatever I said was shocking and disgusting. Sometimes, I have no filter, especially if I’ve been drinking.
I could tell the guy’s wife was horrified and it looked like she was trying to shield her son from the insults springing forth from me. I wasn’t sure if she was horrified by my comments, her husband’s comments, or the whole scene in general. But anyway, they made a hasty retreat. I’m sure they think I’m an asshole, now. On the other hand, I thought the guy was being an asshole for outwardly laughing at me and lacking empathy.
Meh… I really think sometimes I should not go to these kinds of parties with Bill. I’m sure a lot of his co-workers think I’m nuts. On the plus side, we did talk to a really nice lady last night. Too bad she and her husband (and their fabulous dog) will be leaving soon. Also, I gave our waitress the stink eye because she told me that putting a wine bottle upside down in a galvanized bucket full of melted ice is “nasty”. That sounded a bit like bullshit to me, but what do I know? She was happy when we left, though, because she was tipped handsomely.
A couple of days ago, I decided I couldn’t stand to watch any more old episodes of Snapped. I actually find Snapped very interesting, but I can barely stand to listen to the former narrator, Sharon Martin, who (to me) has an annoying, over-the-top, salaciousness about her that grates. I read that Sharon Martin was replaced as the narrator on Snapped. Having looked her up online, I know I’m not the only one who finds her irritating. She must also have her fans, though, because she was the narrator for many years, and there was even a Change.org petition to bring her back.
Because I needed to break away from Snapped, I went on a downloading binge. I ended up buying the box set of Growing Pains, which was a popular show, starting when I was a pre-teen. That show famously starred the late Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, and Jeremy Miller. I’ve just now started the second season and am unexpectedly delighted by how well written and funny the early seasons are. Kirk Cameron was legitimately cute and funny before he became a Christian evangelist nightmare. Jeremy Miller was seriously adorable when he was a little kid. And then there’s Tracey Gold.
I’ve always had kind of a love/hate fascination with Tracey Gold. I think she is a talented actress, although the roles she’s played have often annoyed me. I remember seeing her on shows like Trapper John, MD and any number of movies of the week. She truly has a gift for acting, especially the kind of acting required by shows of the 70s and 80s, which was the height of my childhood. I probably know her best from her time as Carol Seaver, though… and I remember all too well how she was often made fun of on the show for being fat, ugly, and nerdy. Then, when she was in her late teens/early 20s, she developed anorexia nervosa and had to leave Growing Pains for treatment.
In 1994, Tracey Gold even made a TV movie about her real life eating disorder. For the Love of Nancy is one of maybe a dozen or so television movies about the horrors of eating disorders. For all I know, Tracey has recovered from her illness. I haven’t seen her on TV lately, but then I also haven’t been in the United States since 2014.
Yesterday, as I was watching old episodes of Growing Pains, I started thinking about all of the eating disorder themed movies of the week and after school specials. Next thing I knew, I started searching Google and promptly fell down a rabbit hole. My search was prompted by a guest star on Growing Pains by an actress named April Lerman (now known as April Haney). She played an annoying, pretentious girl named Juliet on Growing Pains. In 1987, she also played a girl named Cindy Greco on an after school special called Little Miss Perfect. On that show, she was second banana to Mary Tanner, who played the lead role– a bulimic girl named Debbie Welker.
I remember watching that special and being a bit shocked by it. On that special, Debbie (Mary Tanner) was upset because her mother remarried and forced her to leave her old neighborhood. She finds herself in a new school, where she has to prove herself as a budding musical theater star and high school cheerleader. I distinctly remember the cheerleading coach making comments about how the high school cheerleaders needed to make the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders “jealous” of them.
The hourlong show culminated with a scene showing Debbie stuffing her face with tons of junk food and then throwing up. She ruptures her esophagus and ends up in the hospital, where her mother lectures her about her habits. Cindy Greco (April Lerman) is there doing a horrible Humphrey Bogart impression as Debbie’s mom promises her that they will “lick” (see what they did there?) this problem together.
I went looking to see if I could find that particular cringeworthy special on YouTube. I have seen it there before. Alas, it’s one of the lost episodes that isn’t currently on the popular video platform. I’m sure it will show up again at some point. What I did find, however, was a hilarious article about movies and shows about eating disorders. This snarky piece, written by Claudia Eve Beauchesne, makes the very astute observation about the the media’s portrayal of eating disorders. She writes:
Between 1981 and 2003, at least a dozen cookie-cutter movies and after- school specials about eating disorders were broadcast on North American television. Nearly all of those films had titles combining the words “Dying,” “Perfect” and “Body” (Little Miss Perfect, Perfect Body, Dying to be Perfect, etc.) or including the word “Secret” (Kate’s Secret, The Secret Life of Mary Margaret, A Secret Between Friends, etc.) Save for a few exceptions, they all followed the same recipe:
A white, upper-middle-class teenage girl with mommy issues and a name that ends in a “y” sound (Casey, Debbie, Nancy, Lexi, etc.) secretly begins to “scarf and barf,” or stops eating altogether, in an effort to excel at a performing art or competitive sport, to emulate a popular new friend, or to regain a sense of control after a move or her parents’ divorce. A few dramatic incidents later—often messy binges involving chocolate icing, desperate midnight workouts and/or laxative theft—her friends and family start to tell her that she looks too thin, yet fail to notice that she now also sports ghoulish purple eye shadow and beige lipstick.
Eventually, our heroine faints in public and wakes up in the hospital, her mother asks herself out loud, “What did I do wrong? What did I miss?!” and a doctor gives the worried parents a complete rundown of the possible causes and effects of eating disorders. After a failed attempt to run away from the hospital, our heroine learns that her enabler friend or sassy hospital roommate has died of heart failure or committed suicide. The news sends her on a downward spiral until she hits rock bottom and resolves to get better. Cue the tearful reconciliation with mom.
I sat there chuckling, because Claudia is so right. I’ve seen most of those movies. Some of them are better than others, but they all do follow that basic formula. And they all kind of make it out that the only real eating disorders are anorexia nervosa or bulimia, and they’re only “real” if someone winds up in the hospital on the brink of death. Also, one thing Claudia doesn’t mention, but I’ve noticed, is that they always show the heroines jogging through beautiful neighborhoods, as if they are so healthy and wholesome… but underneath, there’s a bucket of crazy!
The actors portraying the victims sometimes actually look the parts they play. Jennifer Jason Leigh portrayed Casey Powell in The Best Little Girl in the World, an ABC movie of the week loosely based on the book of the same name, written by famed eating disorder therapist Steven Levenkron. I read that Jennifer Jason Leigh lost about 22 pounds to play Casey. She’s also a legitimately good actress. But they still used an emaciated body double in a doctor’s office scene. You can tell, because Jennifer Jason Leigh had really beautiful, thick, natural hair, and in that scene, it’s obvious the body double is wearing a godawful wig. But the shot only lasts a few seconds.
In For the Love of Nancy, there’s a similarly revealing scene. Tracey Gold, who actually did have anorexia nervosa, comes into a Christmas party looking like death warmed over. In that scene, it really looks like they mostly used her real body, although she was reportedly in recovery when that film was made.
I’ve seen For the Love of Nancy a bunch of times. This is the first time I’ve actually stopped to look at this scene closely. It’s probably because this movie kind of grates. Even though it has a somewhat decent cast, there’s not a lot of chemistry among the actors. Jill Clayburgh and William Devane are not convincing as a couple and the siblings all look like they came from different gene pools. But now that I look at it this infamous scene in slow motion, I think they used body doubles for this film, too. Tracey Gold probably no longer had the super skinny body that would deliver the requisite shock value to viewers, since she had been in recovery. I’m sure this film was not easy for her to make. It was probably pretty triggering for her.
Nowadays, movies of the week aren’t as common as they used to be. We have so many outlets for entertainment now. All of the streaming services make their own content now– Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu all have their own shows, and there are so many dramatic subjects that can be tackled that shock even more than anorexia nervosa does. Personally, I think these kinds of movies, which entertain in a way akin to that of horror movies, do a disservice to people.
There are a lot of different kinds of eating disorders. They are all soul crushing and devastating in their own ways. But no one wants to see an obese woman with compulsive overeating disorder stuffing her face and not vomiting, even though compulsive overeating is, in fact, a dangerous eating disorder. Ditto to orthorexia, which is an obsession with “clean” or “healthy” eating. Even though it’s unhealthy and destructive, it’s not as dramatic or sexy a subject as is anorexia or even bulimia. Maybe a really gifted screenwriter and director could make a compelling film about the lesser acknowledged eating disorders, but they probably wouldn’t stir as much interest, even though informing the world about those problems would probably be a public service. At most, people with compulsive overeating or binge eating disorders will get spots on a “freak” show aired on The Learning Channel (TLC).
The one film that probably came closest to such an ideal was the 1990 comedy-drama film, Eating, which starred Mary Crosby. And that movie, which I have seen, is not that great. I remember there was another show– it was an actual series that quickly got axed– that was called Starved. It attempted to put a comic spin on eating disorders and, quite predictably, was deemed in poor taste.
I seem to remember Tracey Gold tried to do a series about eating disorders, too. Her show was more of a documentary/talk show format. I think I saw it once or twice before it was canceled. It didn’t have the best time slot.
One of my favorite movies about eating disorders remains the totally horrifying Karen Carpenter Story. Premiering on CBS on New Year’s Day 1989, this film starred Cynthia Gibb as Karen Carpenter and Mitchell Anderson as Richard Carpenter. Neither actor looked much like the person he or she was portraying, which meant there were really awful wigs used. There was also lip synching aplenty. I read that Cynthia Gibb actually had to wear Karen’s clothes, per Richard Carpenter’s insistence. Later, I read that Richard hated the movie and was sorry he’d had anything to do with making it. It’s a pretty campy movie and I’m not sure it holds up well against the test of time, however I will always love it for the music. I am an unabashed Karen Carpenter fan.
Cynthia Gibb also portrayed an anorexic on the old TV show, Fame. Her character on that show, Holly Laird, becomes anorexic when her parents divorce. Of course, since it was 80s TV, Holly gets sick and is completely recovered by the end of the show, even after a hospital stay. It’s never mentioned again. Naturally, this is a pretty unrealistic characterization of eating disorders. They don’t magically go away.
Below are a few screenshots from the dramatic fainting scene… these are supposed to be high school students!
Perhaps the best portrayal of anorexia nervosa I’ve seen yet– and perhaps as much because of accuracy as sheer entertainment value– was that of Emma Rigby’s portrayal of anorexic teen, Hannah Ashworth on the British soap, Hollyoaks. I enjoy British TV anyway, but these scenes are so over the top compelling. And as an American, I find the concept of “sectioning” someone kind of fascinating. Yes, one can be committed in the United States, but Brits make it sound so much more caring when they do it. That kind of warms the cockles of any drama queen’s heart.
Emma Rigby is also a good actress and the writers seem to have really done their homework about the most dramatic aspects of anorexia nervosa. They even mention the putrid breath one gets when one is in ketoacidosis from eating nothing but protein with no carbs. I was impressed by that. It’s not a very sexy aspect of anorexia and I have never seen it mentioned on any other dramatized program about eating disorders. It looks like Hollyoaks has gone there again more recently with a character named Cleo. I haven’t actually watched Cleo’s story, so I can’t comment too much about it yet…
I could continue writing about this, but it would take all day. I haven’t even scratched the surface. However, just to bring this back to the original topic that caused me to fall down this rabbit hole, I will mention the dreaded Cameron family again. Remember, I got on this subject because of Tracey Gold, who famously starred with Kirk Cameron on Growing Pains? Well, his real life sister, Candace Cameron Bure, is also an actress. And she also portrayed someone with an eating disorder on the family friendly show, Full House. Her character, D.J., diets compulsively for one episode in which she decides to lose weight for a pool party at Kimmy Gibbler’s house.
Anyway… I figure I’ve prattled on long enough about this subject today. Maybe I should write about politics again, but to be honest, I never enjoyed writing about politics that much. I only felt like doing it when Trump was in charge. My original blog was less about politics, anyway, and I’d kind of like to get back to that content… which is less depressing.
Is watching old episodes of Growing Pains better than watching “murder porn” shows like Snapped? Especially when it leads me to looking up movies and TV shows about eating disorders? I don’t know. I used to be pretty obsessive about dieting when I was young, which is why I know about this genre in the first place. I am less obsessive about this subject now, although it’s not something that ever totally goes away. I know I’m not alone, though, which is why I’m writing about this now.
Time to practice guitar before I completely lose my motivation and watch more bad TV from the 80s.
Here’s a repost of Tracey Gold’s book about her experiences with anorexia nervosa. I wrote this on September 27, 2016, and am reposting it as/is.
I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, which were prime years for television sitcoms. I watched a lot of TV when I was coming of age. One show I rarely missed was Growing Pains, a family comedy starring Alan Thicke, Joanna Kerns, Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, and Jeremy Miller. A few years into the show’s run (too late to save it), Ashley Johnson and a young Leonardo DiCaprio would also join the cast.
Since I watched a lot of TV as a kid, I also saw Tracey Gold in plenty of other shows. She was a guest star on Trapper John, MD, starred in several After School Specials, and was also on CHiPs. It was Gold’s appearance on CHiPs that finally prompted me to read her 2004 book, Room To Grow: An Appetite for Life. I probably wanted to read this book when it first came out, but was scared away by all the negative reviews. Now that I’ve read the book, I can say that although it’s now a bit dated, it’s probably not as bad as the many bad reviews would have you believe.
Tracey Gold and her younger sister, Missy, were both child actors with some acclaim. Missy Gold was the star of Benson, a show I never watched. Benson aired for several years and, for awhile, Missy was probably more popular than Tracey was. Both Tracey and Missy were products of their mother Bonnie’s first marriage to Joe Fisher. When Bonnie and Joe split up, Joe was no longer in the picture. Later, Bonnie remarried actor and agent Harry Gold (shortened from Goldstein). He adopted Tracey and Missy and he and Bonnie had two more daughters naturally and adopted a third.
Apparently, the Golds were a very close and loving family, but had no boundaries. Tracey explains that even if she had not been a child actress, she probably would have developed anorexia nervosa, which she had suffered from in two bouts. The first one occurred when she was a pre-teen (and indeed, I remember reading about it when I was in the eighth grade). The second happened in the late 1980s and early 90s, when Tracey was a young woman at the height of her career.
Although she claims she did not become anorexic due to the many fat jokes hurled at her on Growing Pains, the jokes clearly did not help matters. But, I suspect based on what I know about eating disorders and what Tracey herself reports, part of her problems with eating stemmed from having a mother who had bulimic tendencies. And though she apparently loves Harry Gold as if he were her natural father, I suspect her biological father’s departure from her life also helped form the conditions that led to anorexia nervosa. But that’s just my opinion and I could be wrong.
Room to Grow is a memoir that is mostly about Gold’s struggles with eating disorders. Those who want to read about Tracey’s childhood growing up on television may be somewhat disappointed with this book. She is interested mostly in explaining how the eating disorder developed as well as her relationship with her husband, Roby Marshall. Since the book was published twelve years ago, it doesn’t cover the births of her youngest two sons, Aidan and Dylan. It does discuss her pregnancies with older sons, Sage and Bailey.
This book is also basically well written, but does have a few editing glitches within it. They are basically minor mistakes. Ghostwriter Julie McCarron does a pretty good job of making this book sound as if it was coming straight from Tracey Gold. I could pretty much picture Tracey saying aloud what was written on the pages. There are photos included, but they are hard to see on a Kindle app.
Room to Grow is not a bad book, though I think I would have found it more compelling had Tracey included more details about everything. By this, I don’t just mean the eating disorder (which I’m pretty sure she deliberately tries to keep vague to prevent “thinsperation”), but everything… I would have enjoyed reading a little more about her career and her family. She offers a few teases, but doesn’t generally follow through. So by the time I was finished reading, I didn’t feel like I got the whole story. She’s had a very interesting career and comes from an interesting family. More details would have been very beneficial to the end product. Hell, I’d be interested if she’d just offered a few more details about her well known anorexia TV movie, For The Love of Nancy. She had originally said she didn’t want to do this movie, but as you can see, she changed her mind…
But overall… I think I’d give this book 3.5 stars.
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