Though some may think they know all the signs and symptoms of bulimia, anorexia and other eating disorders, “Little Miss Perfect” still has a lot to teach about these conditions. As writer/director Marlee Roberts points out, this is the story of a girl who feels societal pressures, academic pressures and disconnection from her family.
This sort of abandonment may become the need to control something. For many young people, that means controlling their weight as well as hiding their eating disorder from their families.
“It’s not very physical, but it’s all about the psychological and the emotional. That’s what we set out to exemplify through ‘Little Miss Perfect,’” Roberts explained when reached by phone for an interview. “The characters in the film are all sort of helpless in a way. They don’t know what to do and they don’t know what Belle is going through and what it really is. So it all kind of gets pushed under the rug.”
The aforementioned Belle, played by Karlee Roberts, is an exceptionally groomed, well-mannered high school freshman. Elected class president by her peers, Belle appears to have everything under control. Problems at home and with her peers, however, throw the honor student off-balance.
“The inspiration for her character was what I was kind of feeling when I was in high school and I encountered a pro-eating disorder blog,” the director said. “I was always of the kind of personality that was a little OCD and had these perfectionist tendencies. I kind of seek control through sort of physical, tangible means. I’ve only come to realize that through the making of this movie, actually.”
Roberts, much like Belle, encountered a blog with an emaciated image of a girl with the head cropped out of the picture. “They never really show their faces. I saw that a friend had re-blogged this photo. I went to look to see who had re-blogged this photo, why they were posting this. I realized that the one post had been re-posted hundreds, if not thousands, of times,” she said.
The writer/director came upon an online, sub-culture of girls who were helping each other with their weight goals: “While I was fascinated by it, I was also kind of repelled by it because I knew it was wrong. Alongside some of the images were quotes talking about perfection, talking about control, feeling worth something. Kind of these constant pressures not to disappoint people. I really connected to that.”
Roberts ended up working with two clinical psychologists through the NYU Child Studies Center. “Through them, I was able to find out more personally, not only research and how to find the data and statistics, but also to look at accounts of other patients and clients of theirs. Of course, [these were] kept anonymous,” she said. “I was able to keep a record of what they were doing to hide it from friends and family. And they are really good at it.”
“Little Miss Perfect” currently is working its way across the country on the film festival circuit.