Depictions of depression and eating disorders in My Mad Fat Diary

Marta Lopera-Marmol, Monika Jimenez-Morales, and Manel Jimenez-Morales

Television represents one of the most significant sources of information regarding mental and neurological disorders and can sometimes function as a viewer’s only exposure to a specific mental disorder (Espanha, 2014). Research has shown that onscreen portrayals of mental disorders tend to be negative, inaccurate, lack diversity, and disassociated from social reality, and therefore perpetuate stereotypes about mental disorders and health policies (Pirkis et al., 2006). Many recent television series are, unfortunately, still based on old and controversial misconceptions and negative stereotypes regarding mental health. For example, series such as 13 Reasons Why, Grown-ish, and Dare Me all include incorrect portrayals of symptomatology, old-fashioned treatment, nameless medication, and inaccurate diagnosis.

The prevalence of such shows perhaps explains the persistent cultural image of the psychiatric patient or sufferer as mad, dangerous, victimized, unemployed or incapable of holding down a job, possessing fewer skills, unpredictable, isolated, or incapable of living meaningful, productive lives. As such, television can both perpetuate and generate different types of stigma, as well as reinforce the otherness of mental disorders and grounding it in everyday experience. Television portrayals present visible differences of appearance and behavior that demarcate a symbolic boundary between a mentally healthy “us” and a mentally ill “them” (Cross, 2004). Such portrayals can lead the general public to perceive people with mental disorders as “abnormal.”

Nonetheless, several other series have shifted away from these old unsympathetic narratives. In the last 15 years, research indicates an effort from television series to include more sympathetic portrayals of various mental disorders (Greenberg et al., 2003; Sieff, 2003). Both audiences and critics have recognized and applauded these portrayals for presenting real, three-dimensional, raw, and complex characters, some of which have become role models for younger viewers. These somewhat positive1 portrayals attempt to normalize mental health problems. The hope is that accurate media representations of mental disorders might lead to a beneficial social climate in which stigmatization, misrepresentation, misconception, and stereotyped information of the mentally ill can be reduced (Cross, 2004).

This chapter aims to analyze the representation of depression and eating disorders narratively and aesthetically, as well as the stereotypes associated with these

Eating disorders in My Mad Fat Diary 123 two mental disorders, through the study case of the coming-of-age and dramedy series My Mad Fat Diary (MMFD), which is known for its revolutionary narrative of sexual exploration, family relationships, and friendships. MMFD positions itself as a groundbreaking series in terms of gender, succeeding in ways other shows fail. The series also manages to portray how platonic and romantic relationships are challenged all the time by the strain of mental disorders of the main characters. MMFD offers a favorable and reliable depiction of the clinical representation of depression and eating disorders. The series displays accurate portrayals of mental disorders through edutainment to help audiences develop a better understanding of these conditions. The series’ portrayal can demonstrate how television and film can create portrayals with a positive social impact thanks to the accurate depiction of the clinical reality of depression and eating disorders.

My Mad Fat Diary, not your typical teen drama

MMFD is a BAFTA-winning cult television series comprised of 16 episodes distributed in three seasons between 2013 and 2015. Produced by E4, MMFD is known for its social and cultural status as well as for being a significant voice of the British youth (Woods, 2016). The show is based on a true story, the bestselling book titled My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary (2007). Written by Rae Earl, the book follows the author as she leaves a psychiatric hospital where she spent four months following an unsuccessful suicide attempt. The main character, Rae, suffers from depression, paralyzing anxiety, bullying, self-disgust, self-destruct, selfharm behavior, and an eating disorder. She exists in the liminal space between two worlds; on the one hand, she is eager to return to the safety, steadiness, and care of her therapist Kester and her friends Tix and Danny Two Hats. On the other hand, Rae is exploring, navigating, and facing the challenging world of adolescence next to her childhood best “frenemy” Chloe and Chloe’s group of friends, referred to as “The Gang.”

The show’s narrative features a first-person monologue marked by blunt, raw forms and tones; this narrative foregrounds a feminist perspective that introduces a new vision of treatments, symptoms, medication, and diagnosis of depression and eating disorders to the realm of coming-of-age television series. Many such series are mostly led by male characters, including new releases, such as Atypical, The Good Doctor, and Mr. Robot. For this reason, MMFD proves exceptionally relevant in the current socioeconomic and political context: its feminist focus on mental health aligns with an increased attention to women’s issues on television. Little by little, female leading roles and voices seem to be making appearances in newer coming-of-age genre productions, such as 13 Reasons Why, Dégrossi Next Class, and Riverdale. Additionally, “adult versions” of coming-of-age shows such as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Homeland, Jessica Jones, Girls, and more drew loyal audiences, critical praise, and solid ratings during their runs. However, many of these series eschew clinical reality and instead use allegory and fantasy to address issues of mental disorders. For instance, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a musical, while Jessica Jones is a fantasy superhero series. MMFD attempts to address this lack of verisimilitude by offering viewers a realistic, feminist portrayal, though one presented through a lens of nostalgia.

While MMFD addresses the so-called Millennial and “Generation Z” audiences, the series is set in the year 1996 (the novel was based in 1989). The series uses a nostalgic marketing strategy to appeal to the target audience by calling back to the 1990’s grunge culture with a carefully selected soundtrack featuring tracks by musical acts such as Oasis, Blur, and Radiohead. The series is contextualized as the second wave of British youth television. According to Faye Woods (2016), this second wave is characterized by its female leadership and strong explicit content about sexuality, drug addiction, and alcoholism in an attempt to appeal to frank and authentic teenage portraits by emphasizing the “emotional bleakness and fondness for the mundane of the everyday routine” (p. 69). The first wave of youth television was dominated by white male characters that acted as the “savior” for female ones; however, it also made room for “othered” underclass representations via surreal comedic excess, moral ambiguity, and a bacchanalian pursuit of happiness (Woods, 2016). This first wave includes well-known TV series, such as Skins, The Inbetweeners, Shameless (UK), and Misfits.

It is essential to note that while the British free-to-air television channel E4 relies heavily on productions imported from the U.S., which tend to present aspirational lifestyles, the channel also presents a contrary depiction of youth. Indeed, E4 programs advance groundbreaking realistic portrayals (Woods, 2016). MMFD is also set in Lincolnshire and thus the show conforms to the “Brit-grif ’ trait common among the E4 programs. As Samantha Lay (2004) notes, “Brit-grit” can be defined as making drama from the ordinary. A filmographic sociological interest and desire to bring the citizen’s eyes and heart in the center of the story, seen through movies such as Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996) and Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach, 2019). For this reason, it is no surprise that MMFD is set in low-class white suburbs of Lincolnshire to show “British traditions of realism with the pleasurable excesses enabled by both melodrama and comedy, weaving together the respective oppressiveness and playfulness of the forms” (Woods, 2016, p. 88). The series thereby draws on this concept of “Brit-grit” to realistically portray depression and eating disorders.

Breaking normative narratives of mental disorders through female voices

In MMFD, the character of Rae disrupts normative narratives about mental disorders by breaking the symbolic boundary of otherness, and thus the show distances itself from previous television series framed under misconceptions and stereotypes. The series accomplishes this disruption by showing other realities beyond American white, wealthy suburbs. Additionally, MMFD focuses on the mentally ill and foregrounds a body that fails to conform to the mainstream media canon and idealized discourses (Carrillo-Durán, Jiménez-Morales, & Sánchez Hernandez, 2011). Instead, the show aligns its narrative with body acceptance and fat activism by ignoring “dramatic conventions that suggest that ugly truths

Eating disorders in My Mad Fat Diary 125 or non-normative bodies should remain out of view and instead sheds light on ignored, but common, teen experiences and identities” (Friedman, 2017, p. 1). Thus, the series features a differential tone as it depicts non-normative and nonstereotypical bodies through its main character while exploring the stigma and oppression people face in real life.

MMFD offers both intimate and subjective narration and aesthetics to create a bond between the audience and character (Woods, 2016). Rae often provides her thoughts and feelings about the struggles she faces, as in Season 2 Episode 3:

If I eat unhealthy food, people will think, “Oh, look at that fat cow, no wonder she got to that size.” And if I eat healthy food, then they think, “Well, whom are you trying to kid, love? You didn’t get to that size, eating salads.”

Through such intimate appeals to the audience, MMFD flees from body idealizations and “real fooding”2 obsessive behavior. The audience is invited into Rae’s experiences that demonstrate the contradictory messages she receives and to question the need to attend people’s judgments about body shape and diet. In this way, the series spotlights the social and cultural pressures and policing teenage girls face.

Rae’s subjective experiences reflect the overall focus of the series on disrupting normative portrayals of body shape and diet. The series portrays the intersection between food, mental disorders, normative bodies, and misogynistic behavior many people experience in their lives. For instance, Chloe is presented as the “popular pretty girl,” and while her experiences differ from Rae’s, the series reveals personal events that compare to those faced by Rae. Chloe’s insecurities about her status and physical image are situated in opposition to Rae since Chloe is “popular” and “conventionally thin.” Thus, in the beginning, audiences believed, as Rae did, that Chloe has everything, but the series soon depicts Chloe’s underlying insecurities with her body. While Chloe remains undiagnosed, she nevertheless shows traces of an anorexic eating disorder, specifically through calorie counting or restriction. MMFD also explores body representation through Tix, who is interned at the psychiatric hospital for anorexia nervosa and who ends up dying due to a combination of excessive exercise and a limited intake of calories. By doing so, the series explores the consequences and the seriousness of mental and eating disorders. Tix acts “as a juxtaposition of Rae by exposing the preposterousness of attempts to achieve the ‘right bodies’” (Friedman, 2017, p. 7). Therefore, rather than blame the individual, MMFD puts the blame, correctly, on the societal pressures that lie at the core of the narrative.

MMFD has no interest in portraying the female characters as “the villain” and reducing them to teen series or movie clichés. The rivalry between Rae and Chole serves to reveal their different experiences within a misogynistic society that polices female bodies. Rae feels helplessly intertwined with Chloe’s existence, and vice-versa. The same way Rae is portrayed as more than her mental disorders, Chloe is presented as a complex character who only appears superficial on the surface. During all three seasons, both girls present an evolution, a maturation astheir characters develop and nurture a friendship that is more solid, honest, and sensitive. They do not see life the same way or even share the same values, but they are both on the cusp of womanhood. That is not to say that other friendships’ intersections are forgotten. The series portrays “The Gang” as an intersection of both female and male friendships without falling under the stereotype of “boys and girls not being able to be only friends” due to a pressure for coupling or hooking up (Renold, 2005).

The series depicts Rae as a rebellious and melodramatic antiheroine, upsetting gendered standards. Male characters are seen, among other things, as a result of Rae’s hormonal sexual appetite, a positioning rarely seen in coming-of-age television series. Although audiences and critics have praised previous E4 television series for portraying female main characters suffering from mental disorders, it always took a “male savior” to help them through their struggles. MMFD, on the contrary, depicts a journey of self-love that is full of setbacks but in which Rae acts as her own savior. The series illustrates that recovering from a mental disorder is not just a matter of strength, willingness, or a linear or orderly process; instead, it requires a reliable support system to make better decisions every day and seek help, and an understanding that love is not enough to handle the multiple complexities involved.

Thus, MMFD confronts standardized discourses, especially regarding femininity, such as those seen in 13 Reasons Why, Riverdale, and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Femininity discourse styles and strategies are often associated with the politically incorrect idea of “frilly pink party dresses.” In other words, these are terms that “[invoke] a stereotype, and it is a negative one for many feminists, and a problematic and uncomfortable one for many academic women” (Holmes & Marra, 2010, p. 3). Such discourses are based on a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women and girls, following a restricted and non-intersectional ideal of beauty, a delimitated work, and a narrow selection of occupations. The adoption of such discourses often results in microaggression toward women that break traditional gender roles. Unfortunately, this wrong conception operates on the broader social, economic, and political sphere and follows political pressures and societal expectations.

MMFD’s female characters continuously try to conform to the conventional heteropatriarchal narrative of “being girly.” For instance, Rae and Chloe rate themselves, as seen in S2E2: “You are an eleven, and I’m a four.” Here, the dialogue reflects the beauty standards society has codified through mediated messages. In some cases, Rae is suppressing her true self, both in physical and psychological terms. At one point, she undergoes the classical makeover of “ugly-duckling” sequences seen in television series such as Ugly Betty and films such as The Devil Wears Prada (David Frankel, 2006) and The Princess Diaries (Garry Marshall, 2001). MMFD, however, satirizes those sequences. It is no coincidence that Rae chooses Chloe as her role model since Chloe represents the epitome of femininity (per dominant societal standards). From a psychological and behavioral perspective, Rae has an underlying concern that her humor will prevent her from being perceived as attractive by her male friends. Thus, much of Rae’s self-loathing

Eating disorders in My Mad Fat Diary 127 sterns from the fact that she thinks boys will not reciprocate the sexual feelings she has toward them. However, as Faye Woods notes, her verbal articulation and comic vitality are the keys to her ungovernable power. Rae needs to break through these femininity discourses to be healthy.

Representation of depression and eating disorder through a clinical eye

MMFD focuses on both depression and eating disorders. Depression seems to be another common and well-known word in people’s vocabularies, but few truly understand its clinical meaning and reality, making it harder for those who are diagnosed. The DSM-V defines depression as a mental disorder with a set of symptoms related to the effective and emotional capacity of the individual. Women have a much higher risk of suffering from depression, with double the prevalence compared to men (APA, 2013). While men do suffer from depression, onscreen portrayals have uniquely framed depression as a female condition, creating a gender bias in which barely any narrative space exists for the men that suffer from it. Thus, the stereotype perpetuates that females are biologically depressive while forgetting about societal structures, constructions, and pressures that combine to make women more susceptible to depression (Klin & Lemish, 2008). This stereotype is exacerbated through an intersectional consideration of ethnicity and social status and class: “while rich women are ordered to control their mental health and are acclaimed as self-reflective subjects, poor women are invited to accept their inferior or abject condition” (Harper, 2009, p. 190). MMFD portrays depression from a more intersectional approach to disrupt these stereotypes.

First, MMFD explores the biological and genetic predisposition of depression. One of the primary triggers for Rae’s depression is her childhood and the relationship she shares with both her parents. At a young age, Rae’s father abandons her and her mother, Linda. Consequently, Rae feels rejected, blaming herself, which causes her a significant childhood trauma repeatedly shown through flashbacks. In Season 2, Rae finds her father and goes to meet him with the intention of getting to know him. However, she is once again disappointed and cut off from his life, consequently leaving all the parental weight on Linda, whose unhealthy relationship with food consequently affects Rae. Linda’s erratic parenting comes from constant fear and concern about Rae’s hospitalization, as well as the inability to manage her daughter’s mental disorders. Hence, a balanced perspective of both characters is depicted in which they are both “ill-equipped,” resulting in a unique and compassionate outcome (Friedman, 2017).

In a sense, Linda and Rae suffer from similar issues, emphasizing the biological and genetic predisposition of depression. The relationship between Linda and Rae has a kind of a sympathetic mirroring effect. Rae and her mother have many similarities, making them find compassion for one and another, but their similarities also result in their relationship developing tension and trouble. Both are overweight, suffer from low self-esteem, and struggle with feelings of abandonment. Additionally, at first glance, both seem to rely on a man’s approval to feelsatisfied with themselves. Starting with Season 1, MMFD explores Linda’s new relationship with Karim, a Turkish Muslim immigrant with an illegal status, who she rushes to marry and thereby change his legal status. While Rae seeks sex with others to feel better about herself, Linda seeks a husband to feel complete. Karim loves and accepts Linda, the same way that Finn - Rae’s first boyfriend and love interest - loves and accepts Rae. However, both Linda and Rae feel unworthy of love due to their insecurities.

Moreover, the series suggests that Linda’s poor management of her daughter’s illness results from a low-income and lack of higher education credentials, reinforcing the “Brit-grit” tone. From Season 1 onward, Rae remains aware and mindful of her mental disorders and tries to own it by using pejorative terminology such as “crazy,” “mad,” or “mental” to define herself, owning those terms and finding power in them. However, she is simultaneously afraid and embarrassed; she begins her friendships by lying and experiences stress from others’ use of pejorative terms, thereby demonstrating the power of stigma and the shame associated with such words. Rae worries about being looked at and treated differently as she is both lower class and mentally ill, exacerbating how “abnormal” she is according to social and cultural standards. As such, MMFD assertively explores the intrinsic relationship between mental disorders and socioeconomic status and effects.

While MMFD depicts mental disorders as a complex interaction of genetic predisposition, life experiences, and social and culture pressures, the series also draws on stereotypes about how people respond to those who have mental disorders. Upon revealing her illness and disorder, Rae’s family, friends, and high school advisors treat her carefully, leading to the idea that people with mental disorders are vulnerable and should be treated differently. This stereotype is further explored through Danny Two Hats, Rae’s friend from the hospital. The Gang accepts him right away, although in some respects he is treated as the “comic relief’ of MMFD. The people around them treat Rae and Danny Two Hats as different, suggesting a further othering of the characters, even if they are not physically shunned and kept separate from “normal” people.

However, it is through this interaction with others that the true complexity of MMFD’s portrayal of mental disorders occurs. MMFD effectively avoids the full stereotype of abnormality by portraying the difficulty of coping with mental disorders in a daily context. The full nature of this complex portrayal, which ends in a positive depiction, is most clearly seen in the relationships of Rae, Finn, and Liam.

Rae’s boyfriend, Finn, is a handsome, sensitive, and romantic young man who always supports Rae even when she doubts herself. Finn loves Rae but is incapable of understanding her disorders. Her insecurities, anxieties, and self-hatred continuously create an ever-widening gap between the two of them. They often clash; he is confused by her actions and unable to manage the situation correctly, while she often jumps to incorrect conclusions. In turn, this locks them into a cycle in which she tries to convince him he should not be settling for her since she is “too broken,” and Finn tries to convince Rae that he loves her and is hurt when

Eating disorders in My Mad Fat Diary 129 she pushes him away, creating misunderstandings as the series progresses. Rae often assumes that she will ruin Finn’s reputation, explaining, “I am embarrassed to be with him; I am embarrassed for him” (S2E2). After the first time they have sex, Rae assumes Finn will leave her due to her weight. Therefore, she decides to break up with him to get ahead of the curve. Soon after, Rae starts dating Liam, a young man she meets in her support group who also suffers from anxiety, panic attacks, and body image issues.

MMFD, then, demonstrates that eating disorders and depression are not exclusive to women. Additionally, the series illustrates the sociocultural stigma about men dealing with these conditions as Liam also hid his mental disorder from everyone. Thus, the series contrasts his relationship with Rae with Finn and Rae’s relationship; with Liam, Rae feels confident and like she can be herself, insecurities and all. She is even eager to remove her clothes in front of Liam despite his own reluctance. However, Liam does not believe in therapy and his issues lead Rae to break up with him since she had already overcome all these issues. Rae then reunites with Finn, but after several problems arise in their relationship, she realizes that until she cares for herself, she will not be ready to love anyone else or let anyone else love her in return. This love triangle is not resolved through Finn realizing Rae was right for him all along; indeed, Finn liked Rae before Rae liked herself. Instead, the series depicts dealing with mental disorders as a journey of self-discovery, one that requires others’ support as well as self-love. Given where Rae’s story begins, the show portrays that journey as long nonlinear.

Many television series have been criticized for romanticizing and glorifying suicide (McNamara O’Brien, Knight, & Harris, 2017). The core of MMFD’s narrative revolves around Rae’s failed suicide attempt. Yet the topic is treated sensitively and associated with other symptomatology, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts. MMFD demonstrates how Rae’s suicide affected her friends, family, and acquaintances, thereby showing that suicide should be taken seriously and not depicted in a vengeful or romantic Shakespearean way. These scenes of self-harm are not gratuitous and are only used to present a more accurate diagnosis that aligns with the reality of living with depression. Indeed, the series does not appear to sensationalize self-harm or use it to advance the plot or make characters appear more “dramatic” or “sympathetic.” The scenes involving suicide instead serve a purpose in depicting the consequences of Rae’s depression mixed with her chronic anxiety and eating disorder as well as the physical consequences of psychological distress. In other words, MMFD depicts how mental illness recoveries are not easy, but instead involve impressive breakthroughs and devastating setbacks.

Representation of a communal subjective experience of mental health

As seen in the previous sections, MMFD alludes to stereotypes on depression and eating disorders by suggesting a genetic predisposition for women. At the same time, the series suggests a more complex pathway toward dealing withthese conditions, as it comments on the social and cultural stressors that influence these disorders. Additionally, the series does not present a simplistic journey of being “cured.” One last way in which the series presents a complex, realistic, and ultimately positive portrayal involves just how common mental health issues are among the characters. This commonality is indicated through the reliance on subjective narrative and aesthetic techniques.

MMFD uses Rae’s voiceover in a diaristic format to turn audiences into her confidantes and naturalizing her narration. By doing so, the show allows the inclusion of sketches, scribbles, and notes on-screen. Thus, these features act as a bridge between the comedy or fantasy elements and the clinical reality of her disorders. As Faye Woods writes, “[Rae’s] voiceover can pause the action to comment on or annotate the screen; rotating, modifying, emphasizing or even blocking images” (2016, p. 90). These aesthetic elements enable one to emphasize humorous elements or, on the contrary, accentuate Rae’s fears and anxiety, hence offering emotional saturation as the central element of the narrative. Her voiceover is excessive in both content and tone, showing a wide range of emotions that embody what it is like to live with mental disorders while also having to deal with teenage experiences. This specific technique of self-storytelling allows the series to reconstruct the past and reimagine the character’s experiences. Hence, audiences can engage with Rae’s internal dialogues and self-stories allowing for a richer characterization and narration since it includes emotions, complexity, and contextual information that would otherwise remain unexplored (Morin, 2018). Such insights into Rae’s subjectivity allows the audience to develop a sense of unity, connection, and understanding of others as they cope with emotions associated with depression and anxiety. The series “builds this intensity through its binding of the viewer with Rae’s perspective - one suffused with the everyday desires, jealousies and frustrations of teenage girlhood, but augmented by darker obsessions and anxieties” (Woods, 2016, p. 89). This subjective insight, then, portrays a complex character that more closely reflects the reality of dealing with such conditions.

Another example of MMFD’s use of subjective techniques involves a dream sequence meant to illustrate Rae’s fears and insecurities. The series earned praise for its aesthetics since there are many powerful and conceptual visual scenes, especially those depicting Rae’s pain, provoking an honest, raw, and crude look into her mental disorders and self-harm. One of the most relevant is a fantasy sequence in which Rae emerges from her current body as if it were a disguise, exposing a sculpted physique, a body that is perfect according to the standards of social codes. This “new Rae” drags her skin down the stairs as if she is dragging different, negative, and emotional aspects. She then throws the outer skin, her double body, into the fireplace, displaying a rejection of her corporal image and the need to free herself from it. This sequence provides insight into Rae’s struggle to just be herself even as she feels she must conform to other people’s standards.

MMFD’s storytelling also plays a significant role by including other points of view. In the Season 2 Episode 6, for instance, Rae obtains Chloe’s diary, and both Rae and the audience see a parallel truth to her own, allowing viewers to experience the same story but with a different approach. This technique provides

Eating disorders in My Mad Fat Diary 131 viewers with an understanding that everyone lives their own experiences within their narratives, and that both characters have their own insecurities and truths, creating room for empathy between both girls and avoiding blame. The audience can relate to this format as it shows that adolescence is a difficult time for everyone but is even harder for someone dealing with depression and eating disorders. This communication of different characters’ physical and psychological isolation and emotional and comic frustrations presents both an accurate portrayal of depression’s clinical reality and the typical routine, desires, aspirations, and preoccupations of teenage girlhood. While everyone’s experiences with mental illness and adolescence are different, the fact that Rae, Choie, Liam, Danny Two Hats, and others struggle with both demonstrate the communal and common nature of mental health issues.

As a result of these subjective techniques, visual effects, and the common intertwining of mental health and adolescence, MMFD authentically portrays mental health issues from psychological and physical perspectives that align with the clinical reality of depression and eating disorders. Thus, this format shows under-represented subjects through their own lenses, therefore, resulting in a multifaceted, realistic, and ultimately positive story.


Depression and eating disorders exist at the forefront of MMFD as the title suggests. The series not only presents a unique grunge-tinged soundtrack and distinguished cinematography but also touches on the topic of mental disorders by using coming-of-age struggles, intersectionality, and subjectivity as forces for the criticism of how mental illnesses and psychiatric disorders have been previously treated on screen. The series manages to successfully encapsulate and express issues that other productions with seemingly more accessible genres have achieved to a lesser effect. The series portrays a more complex and ultimately realistic portrayal of depression and eating disorders while also suggesting how common such mental health issues are.

While MMFD alludes to stereotypes on depression and eating disorders, it also comments on the social and cultural stressors that influence these disorders. Additionally, the series presents the trials and tribulations of therapy rather than suggest the individual can “be cured” by simple willpower. By presenting the subjective experiences of various characters, the series also demonstrates the commonality of depression and anxiety. MMFD’s peculiar tone and different use of the humorous lexicon in teen series allow the exploration of depression and eating disorder as a delicate, sensitive, and critical theme.

ft must also be noted that the series is intended as an entertainment product and is not designed to be perceived as a critical commentary. Nonetheless, MMFD sheds light on how mental disorders and eating disorders are perceived in popular culture with a newly sensitive gender-friendly narrative, and it therefore emerges as one of the rawest tributes to readjusting to real-life problems after trauma by depicting it with “Brit-grit” characters that suffer from fractured families andeveryday teenage issues. The series provokes critical thinking while providing enjoyment to a broad audience, and it deciphers the fact that bodies cannot and should not be hidden. Rae’s mental health issues are shown as a dialogue with others. So, in a sense, the series “undertakes a presentation of the social model of disability that rejects problems as rooted in physical, mental, or psychiatric variations, but sees them instead embedded in the disablement of narrow-minded societal structures that enforce uniformity” (Oliver, 2009, p. 25).

MMFD is a journey toward self-love and adulthood. More importantly, perhaps, the show portrays a self-recovery journey through its portrayal of a character dealing with a potentially debilitating mental disorder. Therefore, MMFD triumphantly offers hope of recovery without being afraid to explore depression and eating disorders in a frank way that few other series have.


  • 1 We refer to them as positive when there is an intention from the production to make an empathetic portrait. However, we consider that it is not equivalent to being beneficial since these do not always correspond to the clinical reality.
  • 2 When understood as an obsessive behavior exclusively.


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