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This Fucking Hilarious Woman Is Changing The Way We See Bulimia

Time to watch The Skinny. Warning: This piece references scenes that some readers might find triggering.

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The Skinny is a web series about Jessie, a fun, outgoing feminist YouTuber who has an eating disorder. And it's really funny.

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The dark comedy stars and is written and directed by filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler. Watch the trailer above! (Seriously, do it now). You might recognise Kahnweiler from her previous work, such as the short Meet My Rapist, or her documentary work.

The Skinny is based on Kahnweiler's 10-year relationship with bulimia.

Refinery29 / Wifey.TV

"When it came to depictions of eating disorders on TV, there was nothing that I could identify with," Kahnweiler explains. "I remember watching Gossip Girl and thinking, I’m not Blair Waldorf, I’m not Natalie Portman in Black Swan. So I’m not bulimic, and my eating disorder isn’t that bad."

She says, "People know the narrative of drug addiction and alcohol addiction, but the narrative of eating disorders is still 'stupid white girl, get over it'. It’s a hardcore, real mental illness."

The title of the show has a dual meaning.

kickstarter.com

"I think the first iteration was Skinny Bitch and I liked it, but I felt it lacked a certain emotional truth, for lack of a better word," Kahnweiler says.

"And I was thinking of the mantra of my eating disorder, and what it meant, emotionally. For me, I was always 3 pounds away from having my ideal body and my ideal life. There's a part of me that's so tied to my eating disorder and it's like, if I can be skinny, then my life will be perfect. If I can be perfect, then my life will be perfect. And of course, even at my thinnest, that never really mattered.

"So The Skinny is that truthful thing of the person that's searching for her most idealised self. But also, 'the skinny' means 'this is what's fucking up'. This is the struggle that a lot of women can relate to, I hope."

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The series incorporates Kahnweiler's earlier work.

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Jessie can be seen clicking "her" YouTube profile, and watching videos that Kahnweiler has made. It was a conscious decision to integrate the pre-existing work, Kahnweiler explains.

"I was really interested in telling the story of being this out-and-proud loud feminist, and also having this side of me that was so much self-hate and shame. I had an eating disorder since I was 16, and I've gone through a lot of pain and suffering with that. But also, I've had an incredible creative life. And both of these things have existed within the same person.

"So I thought it would be a really cool exploration in the show to examine this public and private self. Everyone has that, even if you're going to the gas station, and you're struggling, you have to put on a mask.

"Also these videos helped to open up the world of the show – to show these characters in different environments and types of stories."

The subject matter sometimes takes over in real life.

Refinery29 / Wifey.TV

"It’s fucking weird talking about my eating disorder all the time," Kahnweiler says. "There’s a part of you, when you go through this experience of making art – like in my last film about sexual assault, it was a creative catharsis and it was amazing and it’s going to be with me forever, but it’s not all of who I am.

"But I try to separate myself from this project. This project is not my therapy – like, I go to therapy! – but I want to show people that recovery is possible. It’s just a lot of work. It’s a full-time job to be healthy, and be happy to take care of yourself. But at a certain point you have to fight for your own existence."

The series has been created in conjunction with Refinery29, and the reaction so far has been positive.

Refinery29 / Wifey.TV

Kahnweiler released a pilot via Kickstarter, and then partnered with Refinery29 to create a series. It premiered at Sundance this year, and Jill Soloway (Transparent) acts as producer.

"It’s been a really incredible, emotional, meaningful experience," Kahnweiler says.

"I’ve been working on this project for long, and it’s obviously such a personal story, but there’s something so beautiful about the medium of filmmaking. And especially web content, you put it out there and immediately it’s so much larger than you."

And Jessie's recovery is a work in progress, but she's hopeful.

Refinery29 / Wifey.TV

Throughout the series Jessie recovers and relapses, leaving the viewer frustrated sometimes. But that's how recovery goes, Kahnweiler explains.

"We really tried to come from a place of truth, and being this kick-ass feminist and also being a scared little girl," Kahnweiler says.

"Something that we want to track with Jessie is that she has the capacity to be this strong woman, and it comes out in these moments. Usually in the darkest moments is where the character really shines. So we can show these moments and say 'that's the scene' and then if she can do that, then how can she turn around and go hurt herself?

"But for me, that was my path of recovery. So much of my recovery is based on years of falling and getting back up. We wanted to show the complexity of that."

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