Lizzie McGuire is a show I did not watch. I WAS aware of it growing up, but had little
interest in watching it because it was JUST out of my age range; the main demographic
was preteens and I was already a couple years into highschool when it aired. The show followed Lizzie McGuire, a 13 year
girl who is just kind of navigating her way through middle school with the help of her
friends Miranda and Gordo. Lizzie has an alter-ego in the form of an
animated cartoon character that symbolizes her subconscious and addresses the audience
throughout the episodes. I mean…it’s cute. Very inoffensive, some good humor and okay
characters. I don’t hate it. But I won’t be discussing the series as
a whole today, I will be focusing on a specific episode from season 2 titled “Inner Beauty.”,
wherein Miranda develops would could be loosely called an eating disorder. For a day. Like I said, it’s loose. I wouldn’t exactly call this a “very special
episode” because it’s clear the writers didn’t tackle the subject very seriously;
it’s still very much a Lizzie McGuire episode, complete with interludes of Lizzie’s alter
ego saying random things, silly sound effects, and a wacky subplot involving her annoying
younger brother. I should warn you that I will be talking about
eating disorders and body dysmorphia in this video; if you find those topics upsetting
or triggering, than this may not be the video for you. I should also mention that I suffered with
bulimia for 12 years, and am also currently managing body dysmorphic disorder so I will
be using a lot of my own experiences to reinforce my points about this episode. I’m going to be giving you the synopsis
first, then I’ll discuss what the episode got right and what it got wrong. As we start the episode we see Lizzie and
Miranda busting out some amazing dance moves in preparation for being in a music video
directed by Gordo. After practice is over, Lizzie and Miranda
start chowing down on a ton of junk food, which prompts Gordo to say: “Man, you guys
eat a lot.” Real good friend there, Gordo. Lizzie and Miranda just kind of brush it off
and continue to enjoy their food. The next day at school, Miranda tells Lizzie
she is upset that she only got a B on one of her exams and starts to worry about her
grades and the pressure to do well from her parents. She’s surprised that she didn’t get an
A and is like “HOW CAN THIS BE?” Get it, how can this B. Because…yeah that’s
a bad one, I’m sorry. Gordo shows them the photos he took to promote
the music video. Miranda sees her photo and is horrified at
her appearance, despite looking exactly the same as her non photographed self. Miranda: “How come no one’s ever told
me I have like, six chins?” Lizzie: “Because you only have one.” Lizzie and Gordo are confused by her reaction;
they tell her that she looks great and can’t see what she is seeing. Fearful of what she’ll look like on camera,
Miranda decides to go on a diet. Gordo says she is overreacting, which is possibly
the worst thing you can say to someone who is clearly upset. Miranda starts comparing herself to the women
she sees in the media and laments about not looking like them. The next day she skips lunch and makes excuses
for not eating what looks to be an abandoned arts and crafts project. Lizzie and Gordo display a minimal amount
of concern. We can’t let anything get too serious so
here’s a subplot for comic relief. Turns out Lizzie’s younger brother Matt
has a talent for art and his parents decide the best way to encourage his new interest
is by coddling him and letting him to whatever his quirky heart desires. Matt decides to demonstrate his new skills
in a needlessly messy way but his parents are okay with it because he’s a budding
artist that needs support. Mom: “If this is your passion then we’re
here to encourage you, right hunny?” Dad: “Even if it DOES smell.” While rehearsing for the music video, Miranda
becomes exhausted from not eating and exerting too much energy from dancing, and nearly passes
out. Her mom shows some concern and Miranda lies
about having lunch. Gordo then goes on a very long, rambly rant
about the pressures of being a young girl in a beauty conscious society, and Lizzie
is like, “Gordo, shut the fuck up you don’t know what you’re talking about.” Sorry, Lizzie didn’t say that, I did. My bad. MORE COMIC RELIEF in the form of montage. Later, when Lizzie and Miranda are shopping,
Lizzie suggests trying on a new pair of jeans. Miranda responds with “Why? So my fat can hang over the top? No thanks.” Lizzie’s alter-ego states that Miranda must
not be seeing herself in the mirror correctly. She then decides to voice her concerns about
Miranda’s diet, saying it doesn’t make any sense, and that it’s scaring her. Miranda doesn’t take this well and becomes
angry, denying that there’s an issue and saying that it’s none of Lizzie’s business. Lizzie asks her mom for advice on what to
do; her mom tells her that if things don’t improve over the next few days she will get
in touch with Miranda and her mom and discuss it with them. More weird cartoon stuff to quash the seriousness. The next day, when Miranda shows up for filming,
Gordo apologizes for his comment about her eating too much, and Lizzie once again voices
concern. Miranda opens up, admitting that her life
feels out of control; she feels like her grades are suffering and that her parents are putting
extra pressure on her, so she chose to take control of her eating as a way to deal. Miranda: “Like, all this other stuff just
happens to me but eating is something I have a say in.” But holy shit, we can’t let this get too
serious so back to Matt; because his parents didn’t chastise him earlier for making a
mess, he decides to be even more liberal with his art and paints his Dad’s car. Dad: “That’s my car…” They take this oddly well; Dad just keeps
muttering “but that’s my car” over and over again and his mom is like, “Hunny,
next time please use paper.” I’m not kidding, he isn’t even punished. I’d punish him just for this hideous composition. The music video is fine I guess; Lizzie can
do a pretty sick backflip. After watching it, Miranda decides she looks
amazing and everything is solved thanks to the power of friendship and DANCE. Also, does anyone else find it unfortunate
that Gordo’s name translates to fat in Spanish? Anyway, The End! Okay, let’s talk about how this episode
handles Miranda’s problem in more detail; First: the things I thought the episode did
well: The first time Miranda conveys unhappiness with her appearance is after she sees the
promotional photos Gordo took. Her reaction is intense and very cruel towards
herself. You might be thinking, “wow, that was abrupt;
how can Miranda see herself that differently so suddenly just from seeing one photo of
herself?” And to that I would say…it’s not the MOST
far off. Perceiving physical flaws that either aren’t
there or are very minor are symptoms of Body Dysmorphic disorder, which is a mental illness
in the obsessive compulsive spectrum. It often leads to things like eating disorders
such as anorexia or bulimia because the person’s perception of themselves is so extreme, that
it can lead to extreme measures to fix those imaginary flaws. I was about 11 years old when I saw a school
photo of myself and became very aware of my appearance, and became obsessed with things
that were not a big deal to anyone else. Early on, it was geared towards my body and
weight, but presently my BDD is focused on my face; in Miranda’s case it’s her weight
and the imagined double chins. In fact, Miranda’s strong reactions to how
she looks is probably one of the most accurate things about the episode; intrusive thoughts
affiliated with disordered eating or thinking do tend to be very harsh; having Miranda say
something as blunt as “Why, so my fat can spill over the top?” isn’t dramatic, it’s
accurate. I have diary entries from elementary school
that profess similar sentiments. Typically it isn’t just one thing that leads
someone to feel this way though; in my case and in the case of many others it was a combination
of societal pressures, body shaming, and depression; but because we really only have 22 minutes
to get this problem resolved they consolidated it to a single picture and Gordo’s previous
comment about eating a lot. The fact that Miranda obviously has a small
frame doesn’t make this scenario less realistic; people can be ANY weight, any age, any gender,
and suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder or develop an eating disorder. It’s about perception, not about what you
actually look like to other people; a person like Miranda really would see something that
isn’t there and have a strong reaction to it, so these elements of the episode are somewhat
grounded in reality, they are just rushed. I should also say that not everyone who has
BDD has an eating disorder, and vice versa, but for the most part dysmorphic thoughts,
like the ones Miranda was having when she saw that photo, do lead to problems with eating
and exercise. The fear of being on camera is also very realistic
of course, and something I relate to on a personal level. I find the fear of how I look on camera to
be one of the most intrusive thoughts related to BDD. I found Miranda’s anger towards Lizzie while
they were shopping notable; eating disorders tend to be very secretive; I’ve had very
similar reactions to people who have noticed my behavior and tried to bring it up; it feels
like you’ve been caught or sometimes even accused of something, and I find that can
spark anger, even if it’s not warranted. Though again, this is very rushed and it all
happens over the course of a couple days so it’s hard to take it seriously, even when
some of these parts aren’t messing up too horribly. Obviously if this became a plot point for
the series I think exploring things like feeling shame, denial, and anger would be very beneficial. I’m not sure how accurate I think they are,
but I do appreciate the fact that Gordo apologizes for his comments on Miranda’s eating, and
the fact that Lizzie attempts to get some outside help from her mom when she doesn’t
know what to do. I can’t say I’ve met many kids in middle
school that would’ve had the maturity to apologize to me, or even have the experience
to help me through disordered thinking, but the fact that Gordo bluntly said he was for
something he didn’t mean to be harmful is important, and I was pleasantly surprised
by it. It shows young people that apologizing when
you hurt someone is good, no matter what your intent may be. I’d also say it’s a little weird for Lizzie
to be so blunt with her mom about Miranda, but I’m happy it made it into the episode;
it’s critical for kids to recognize when they can’t help someone, and that talking
to and being honest with someone they can trust can provide extra support. It’s important that people realize that
if a friend or loved one is suffering from a mental illness, that you can take a step
back and own up to the fact that you may not know exactly how to handle it, but are willing
to try and find other sources to help. In this episode it’s a little saccharine
if I’m honest, but it IS Disney so I guess I should have expected that. And if you think I’m being a little too
charitable towards this episode, don’t worry, I have a lot to say. The biggest problem with this is that there
really isn’t a lot of time to explore what needs to be to have any kind of impact on
someone. It’s a good attempt, I’m glad a show as
goofy as Lizzie McGuire at least wanted to address disordered eating, but why even bother
if you aren’t even willing to commit the full 22 minutes to it? It’s really not a bad show when it’s following
a pretty innocuous storyline, but it’s not structured to adequately address complex subjects. The fact that the writers wasted time with
a weird subplot about Lizzie’s brother is so disappointing to me; I feel like the whole
episode should have be dedicated to Miranda’s issue, but instead anything serious gets undercut
by the “annoying younger brother” trope, which is why it doesn’t fall under the “very
special episode” category for me; it’s still way too wacky and unfocused. I hesitate to even refer to Miranda’s problem
as an eating disorder, even though the characters treat it as one, and Lizzie even refers to
it as a “starvation diet”, but we don’t really see it turn into something more serious,
probably due once again to time constraints. Since we never really see a disorder develop
I would call what Miranda is experiencing disordered thinking, which can be nipped in
the bud early with support and therapy. What bothered me most about this episode is
honestly not how Miranda was portrayed or how the characters interacted, it’s the
ENDING. When Miranda finally opens up to her friends,
she says she chose to starve herself because it’s something she could control, unlike
the external pressures from school and her parents. I’m not saying that’s inaccurate; when
I had bulimia everything had to be controlled, to a detrimental level. The episode simply doesn’t illustrate the
very serious ways that sufferers micro manage their eating and why, so it’s hard for me
to believe that this character did it just to have control over something, especially
since very early on, the reason for her behavior was due to how she saw herself in a photo. It felt like the episode was setting up the
conflict around how Miranda genuinely saw herself, and so the resolution would need
to be related to helping her through that, but instead it went back to grades. I think the writers were just conflating too
many things, and that made it difficult to focus on the eating problem and her skewed
perception of her appearance. I think there was a missed opportunity to
really explore how eating disorders start, and to go into Body Dysmorphia since it is
HARDLY EVER addressed in media; I feel like Lizzie McGuire recycles the same things we
commonly affiliate with characters who decide to not eat; Miranda almost fainting when she
was dancing, for example: We know why that happened, because she hadn’t eaten lunch,
but that only addresses a physical symptom of a much bigger problem. We’ve all seen commercials or scenes in
movies and television that feature an emaciated girl looking into the mirror and seeing something
different, this episode mentions it briefly using Lizzie’s alter ego; but media rarely
gives this behavior a name, and BDD is so under discussed that it’s hard to get treatment. I’m of course deep diving and possibly over
analyzing this episode, but I do find it strange that writers are so willing to show symptoms
of a mental illness without going beyond the surface; TV usually plays it relatively safe
and episodes like these just kind of serve as a cautionary tale. I think mental illnesses in general deserve
more than a 22 minute episode that ends with “Everything is okay in 2 days due to the
power of friendship!”, but I do respect that someone tried. Lizzie McGuire was probably not the right
show to cover such a heavy topic; I do give it credit for trying, especially since Lizzie
McGuire was geared towards young girls, so you’d think this IS the right place to put
a message like this, but ultimately I think it’s unsuccessful. It’s not the worst, and it definitely wasn’t
offensive but I think it could have done better, and in terms of children’s entertainment
I think raising the bar is always essential. And even though the episode wasn’t all it
could have been, I do hope my commentary on it is valuable to someone. I’ve yet to see many television shows handle
eating disorders, BDD, or OCD well, but I’m open to hearing about ones that you think
did. If you are currently suffering from an eating
disorder, or think you might have BDD, I want you to know that you are not alone and that
there is hope for getting better; I struggled with bulimia for 12 years and recovered in
2014. I still manage BDD every day, which is why
I am appearing on camera for this video; it’s hard as fuck but I wanted to do it despite
my feelings about myself, and show you that you are capable of doing things like this
as well. You don’t need to keep things a secret,
and you are not a burden. I will be donating $50 dollars and whatever
I make on this video to the BDD Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing information,
support, and resources about Body Dysmorphic Disorder, including hotlines for disordered
eating, suicide ideation, and and obsessive compulsive disorder. Do consider checking out the website if you’re
interested in learning more. I do hope you took something good away from
from this video, even if you came into it with limited experience on the subject. If you liked it, please considering liking
and sharing it. There are links in the description if you
care to check out my social media pages, and if you need a break from this heavier topic
then feel free to check out my Murder, She Wrote retrospectives. As always, see you in the next one.

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