Category Archives: food shame

Heavenly Creature

I took me a few days to get through Maron’s WTF podcast interview with Melanie Lynskey for a couple of reasons.

  1. I really like her a lot as an actress (Heavenly Creatures” is one of my all time favorite films) and apparently she is very shy and meek with a super quiet voice who has and does struggles with several disorders causing Marc who loves her as well to really apply some tough love to bring her out of herself. In this case it got a bit raw and shaky at times but they were both very smart and respectful of one another so it seems they still liked and deeply respected one another by the end.
  2. I’m an accent junky, so I got really wrapped up in listening to Lynskey’s New Zealand accent. I just….I love accents, twangs and distinctive voices in general. The one time I was in England years ago I remember meeting my cousin there for the first time and not really understanding everything he said because of his thick cockney accent. Oh, God, how often as a girl did I do my own version of the cockney accent after watching “Upstairs Downstairs” on PBS with my mom? And now here was my own cousin just wafting his thick cockney over me unaware that I just never wanted it to stop, that although I nodded in comprehension, most of it was just me prompting him to keep talking. LOL!!

So I had to listen to some parts of this interview several times so that I followed it all the way through. Because it gets a bit harrowing, at least for me when Melanie starts talking about her struggles with an eating disorder as a girl and Marc gently shares his own struggle with body and food shame with her.

The part I just loved is when she talks about stopping her obsession with thinking about food and just decided to let herself enjoy eating. Believe it or not, this all starts with Melanie bringing Marc a gift of cookies at the beginning of the interview. The thread of food and body shame runs pretty heavily throughout their exchange. She shares a moment where she looks at her body one day and actually finds herself enjoying it for the first time and thinking how lovely and sexy her roundness was. “What’s wrong with that?” she said. Of course the answer is nothing and I’m smiling and nodding affirmatively at this point.

Many of us who know of Melanie, know her from Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures” a dark film based on the true story of two severely emotionally dysfunctional high school girls in New Zealand who successfully plot the brutal murder of the mother of the girl played by Lynskey. They do get caught. Yes, I know it sounds awful if you’ve never seen it but it’s really a very nuanced, funny and beautifully directed and performed study of the interior of female adolescence gone just terribly wrong. Lynskey’s pasty, miserable, dour portrayal played across from a young Kate Winslet’s hysterical, fantastical glamour is brilliant.

I saw nothing from Lynskey for years until one day last year I saw her appearance on a few episodes of “Two and a Half Men” which I never watch. But I wasn’t sure it was her because she had a flawless American accent. She was taller, slimmed down and on an American comedy. I was confused. Where had she been?

After hearing this interview it’s become obvious that she may not have believed she really deserved to be working as much as many of us wished she had been. Her self-esteem just seems so precarious and I guess it reminded me of what a lot of women in general struggle with in regards to what they feel they deserve, despite a significant amount of well deserved praise, acclaim and accomplishment.

Now I’m not going to sit here and say, what’s up with that, although I could hear the words in my head several times while listening to the interview. I know why. But it’s funny when you’re listening to a woman you admire, sharing very intimately, the nature of her struggle to see herself at all, let alone see herself the way the gaze of celebrity and fame do. In fact the latter would have greater potential to destroy by degrees without the other.

One of Lynskeys greatest triumphs was just to see herself and her body through her own eyes and to enjoy food! I can relate to that struggle. I can also relate to the fact that there’s really no point at which as women we’re not always working through it, and that accepting that is okay as long as we’ve made the decision that self-hate in it’s various forms does not work for anyone.

There were also discussions between Marc and Melanie about the roles in which both their mothers informed their body and food shame issues which were of course integral to breaking this cycle without making them feel guilty or like they were throwing their mothers under a bus. I know from experience how important this is. As someone who was raised vegan, I have only recently come to understand that in a deceptively indirect way the message that slimness and skinniness is healthy, is also the message that the opposite of that is bad, is automatically equated with shame, unattractiveness, lack of value and beauty. It’s a message I received in my life in formative stages and a way that I looked at the world without being conscious of it for a long time.

Lynskey, in expressing her revelations about seeing herself also said that she likes the differences in the way people’s’ bodies look and immediately cops to freaking out when she watches Awards shows and seeing how skinny everyone looks, feeling like maybe she should look that way as well. Naturally! I would imagine that any woman in the industry who doesn’t look like a stick is always doing the comparison game when looking at red carpet shows. We all do it. But I too have always loved differences and the uniqueness and distinction that people bring to the table by embracing not who they feel they should be or how they should look but who they were born to be. Like so much we know intellectually, that is so much easier said than done, I know, but ultimately, there is beauty in the struggle towards it. At least I think there is.