By MAMAMIA TEAM
Unless you’re in your teens, it’s probably been a while since you last tuned into Neighbours. But now there’s a new reason to watch: Australia’s longest-running drama is taking on some issues many of us can relate to – negative body image and eating disorders.
Imogen Willis played by Ariel Kaplan is discovered to be suffering from Bulimia Nervosa but it was Eve Morey who plays Sonya Mitchell in the show who pushed the eating disorder storyline with Executive Producer Richard Jasek.
Morey was inspired after watching the documentary, Miss Representation and through her own body image-related issues.
“For most women, the perpetual pursuit of the ideal physicality is a social norm and I have yet to meet a woman that hasn’t in some point of her life experienced an unhealthy attitude towards her body,” Morey says.
The 30-year-old believes that mainstream media is saturated with imagery that “serves to disempower women” through the relentless “critique of the female shape” and that it’s this reason that many women (and men) end up dissatisfied with their bodies and in some cases, developing eating disorders.
“For a show that is primarily watched by a young audience, I believe that the exploration of these themes is imperative,” Morey says. “We have a social responsibly to not only create content that is engaging on an entertaining level, but is also able to reflect and represent issues that audiences young and old may be experiencing, in this case, engaging them to think with regard to the complex manifestations and damaging effects of these social issues.”
Two characters in the show experience unhealthy behaviours around food and the writers were careful to investigate their experiences with differing motivations and contributing factors to mirror the diverse and complex issues in society.
The producers worked closely with the Butterfly Foundation in developing the script to present a true and sensitive portrayal of eating disorders.
“The Neighbours writing and production team were committed to ensuring that the storyline was realistic, accurate and didn’t cause harm to anyone viewing the scenes,” says Butterfly Foundation CEO Christine Morgan.
“We are very grateful for the way they conducted themselves in developing this storyline, we look forward to it raising awareness of the indiscriminate nature of eating disorders and how serious they are.”
It’s been six years since Neighbours wrote eating disorders into the show the last one being a male character, Ringo Brown played by Sam Clark.
Christine Morgan believes there is still a stigma attached to eating disorders in our community – and it’s one that is still not taken seriously: There are many misconceptions about the seriousness of these illnesses – sadly some people still think that it is a vanity exercise and a lifestyle choice, rather than a very serious mental illness that currently affects around 914,000 Australians.”
Morey believes the story lines which air in mid-August and October will resonate with the largely teenage audience.
“I hope that in presenting these stories that audiences can identify with characters and in turn, question their own behaviour and do something about it: whether that be seeking help, starting a dialogue or challenging that inner voice.”
As for any triggering effects it may have on their young audience both Morgan and Morey agree that by raising awareness about eating disorders and the promotion of help-seeking for people at risk that this can only be a positive move for the network.
“These issues need to be brought forward – they need to be exclaimed from the roof top until this epidemic is truly recognised for the damaging effects it is having on the self-esteem of young and old people alike,” Morey says.
Neighbours screens at 6:30pm weekdays on Eleven or you can catch up on episodes here.
Editor’s note: This is not a sponsored post. We just though the effort was worth mentioning.
If this has brought up any issues for you or you need help or support you can call the Butterfly’s National support line on 1800 334 673 (1800 ED HOPE) or chat to one of their free, secure, confidential, one-on-one web counsellors here.