I made an off-hand remark when I saw one of those starving-child ads, that the skin-and-bones images were the true image of the American dream. But as I began to think of it, it tied to some thoughts I had recently when explaining to a coworker the concept of pro-ana.
Really, the pro-ana movement is the logical culmination of the two major strains of American cultural insight. America, following the political theology of John Locke and Jean-Jacque Rousseau, is based on the notion of liberalism, which takes the freedom of the individual (self-ownership) to be the central political fact. To the degree that an individual’s actions are not violating anyone else’s self-ownership, those actions should not be forcibly directed or denied, especially by the state.
At the same time, America is largely a consumerist culture, with luxury goods and services making up a significant percentage of our GDP. Advertisements flood our public and private spaces, directing us toward abstract and impossible ends, largely made up of fictitious body images no living person can physically attain.
Given the political and consumerist influences at the heart of American culture, why wouldn’t a movement like pro-ana come to the fore? Pro-ana is the logic of the American dream.