Pretty Hurts: Beauty, Body Image, and Eating Disorders in Web Comics

You ARE Beautiful.

For those of you who don’t know, February 21-27th is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It’s a time in which we should recognize that the “one in two-hundred women in the U.S” statistic is still very much a problem.

I’ll be frank: I myself do not have an eating disorder. I won’t be speaking from experience nor from having known someone with an eating disorder. But I’ll take an educated guess and say that some of our readers may be in a different boat altogether.

Nonetheless, this article goes out to all of you.

Eating disorders are a problem. Eating disorders should not be romanticized. Eating disorders can’t simply be turned on or off.

Some eating disorders stem from unreasonable beauty standards while some are genetic. Eating disorders wear many, many faces – some more subtle than others.

The web comics I’m about to discuss are anything but.

From a historical standpoint, the world of comics has always been a man’s game. Only recently have artists and writers in renowned companies such as DC and Marvel begun to appeal to readers’ needs for more diverse characters and body types. Once again, the indie scene is ahead of its time. Indie comics – both print and on the web – have much more freedom when it comes to subject matter. For this reason, I’ll be recommending three web comics with a darker flare than those you might see adapted to the big screen.

1) Fasting by Kazuo Umezu and Hisashi Eguchi

Trigger Warning: Gore


This one-shot manga is short and definitely not sweet. The story opens with a young woman being cruelly rejected by her crush due to her physical appearance. Undeterred, she decides to fast for as long as it takes to win him back. The horrifying twist at her journey’s end shows just how ugly beauty standards can be and will surely stick with you for a long time.

2) I Do Not Have An Eating Disorder by Khale McHurst

Trigger Warning: Nudity and Self-Harm

I Do Not Have An Eating Disorder.jpg

This web comic is completely autobiographical, making the protagonist’s self-realization all the more heartwrenching. The inking used to create empowering imagery and inner demons alike is truly a sight to behold. I love how utterly human this work feels – with its fair share of anger and denial, honesty and hope. It’s a slow read, but one well-worth every moment.

3) Some Other Animal’s Meat by Emily Carroll

Trigger Warning: Nudity and Disturbing Imagery

Some Other Animal's Meat.PNG

This gem is one of many by personal favorite Emily Carroll. Her unnerving art style coupled with the idea of our bodies being mere envelopes is enough to make anyone break into a cold sweat. She handles the psychological-horror genre with expertise all the while criticizing the artificiality of the commercial world. It is this combination of intimacy and satire that makes Some Other Animal’s Meat such a great commentary on body image.

And remember: You ARE beautiful.

Have any other suggestions? Leave a comment in the section below.

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