“I’m not better! I keep waiting for someone to figure that out and they don’t! I mean of course they don’t, ’cause as long as I say the right thing and act the right way, they’re happy because that means they ‘cured’ me, right?”
Emma Chota was a character played by Ciara Bravo in the television series Red Band Society and this show though short lived has impacted me in ways that I can only begin to describe. I started watching in 2014 shortly after it premiered and was heartbroken when it was cancelled after only thirteen episodes as it was truly revolutionary.
The premise is that of teenagers living together in a hospital because of various medical issues and banding together to support one another. The story lines dealing with Leo and Jordi suffering from cancer and having to readjust their thinking about each losing a leg is moving from the first minutes. The brevity of life realized through Kara, Dash and Hunter having their bodies deteriorate way too early is heartbreaking and the others’ dedication to Charlie’s recovery throughout is compelling. But none sit quite as close to me as the story of Emma Chota a girl who struggles with Anorexia Nervosa and ‘is not better but keeps waiting for someone to figure it out.’
As a girl who has fought Anorexia for six years I can tell you that I resonate with Emma every step of the way. I have seen countless examples of Anorexic or Bulimic girls (rarely guys) portrayed in television and yet it is always a small arch in their story. It is something that the character struggles with and then after a few episodes has under complete control and it is probably never mentioned again.That is a lie! A very convincing lie but nonetheless a lie. Anorexia causes of death (directly or through complications relating to) in 18-20% of cases. That is 1 in 5 will die which is the highest the morality rate of any mental illness. So don’t tell me that it was a random phase and the person got better in a matter of weeks. Not only is this unrealistic in the average long prevalence of Anorexia but even after recovery there is a 35% rate of relapse.
This is why I adore Emma of Red Band Society because she has been struggling with this eating disorder for a long time and even throughout the length of the show she never gets better. She pretends, she acts and even says the right things to get released but nonetheless Emma is not better. Emma has freaks out and shakes when she eats. Emma made it her mission to see how long he could go without eating. Emma will never be the girlfriend you give a box of chocolates to.
She had to come through being told that she has no excuse to be there (in the hospital) because her body wasn’t dysfunctional like the rest of them. Wait or was it? After all, Anorexia plagues the mind; it is a mental disorder that warps reality and thought processes. She had family members withhold that it ran in her family so she couldn’t use that as an excuse. Well that does matter because Anorexia is a disease with large biological components and factors. She was a girl who knew how to fake being okay because she just wanted to be like everyone else and yet that drove her closer to death’s door.
Thank you Ciara Bravo for portraying Emma so well and giving me and many others a voice that we never would have will. You used entertainment to show a beautifully authentic look at what it means to battle Anorexia. I cannot help but cry when I hear the declarations and struggles of this character because I know they are ones I have and in some cases continue to fight. Red Band Society has been off the air for two years now and yet I still go back to Emma to find the words that I can’t quite admit myself.
You will always be my hero
Stats Canada (2015) Section D-Eating Disorders. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-619-m/2012004/sections/sectiond-eng.htm
Hopewell (2017) Eating Disorders Statistics: In Canada http://www.hopewell.ca/statsistics/
Nedic (2017) Understanding Statistics about Eating Disorders. http://nedic.ca/know-facts/statistics