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Emmys 2017
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The Famine Within

Posted on

The Famine Within

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season

We gave it an A-

Since PBS is running The Famine Within during what is traditionally its summer month of fund-raising, does this mean that women with bad body self-images (and the men who love them) have been identified as one of the few remaining viewer populations still untapped for contributions to public television? I can’t imagine how thin, cheery on-air hostesses might hustle pledges around this unrelenting documentary by filmmaker Katherine Gilday. (Produced, in 1990, for Canadian TV, The Famine Within was released theatrically in 1991 and also aired last year on Cinemax.) Statistic by statistic, articulate interview by interview with doctors, psychologists, anorectics, and obese women, Gilday spells out the disconcerting news that never in social history has the idealized image of feminine perfection been so far from the reality of female bodies. And never before have women punished themselves so hard (often with tragic results) to fit that impossible perfection — an ideal, ironically, that imprisons women who have otherwise awakened to a desire for greater autonomy in their lives. At times Gilday overloads her arguments (interludes of runway models dressed as severe, business-suited superwomen add nothing), but the clear, calm style of the film builds to an important message. A-