Last week Marie Caro took her own life. Marie was the mother of Isabelle Caro, the deceased model who fronted a campaign to show the real face of anorexia. According to her husband she killed herself because she felt responsible for her daughter’s death.
Isabelle, the ‘ambassador for anorexia’, died last November, aged 28, after being admitted to a French hospital suffering from dehydration. Her parents are alleging that the hospital switched off her life support too early, but the case is still pending. Isabelle was most famous for an Italian billboard featuring her emaciated naked body alongside the text “No Anorexia” in 2007. Taken by the photographer Oliviera Toscani, it was designed to highlight and warn the fashion world about the dangers of the disorder.
In her book, ‘The Little Girl Who Didn’t Want To Get Fat’, Isabelle attributed her anorexia to her mother’s desire that she stay a child. She wrote that, ‘I wanted to have the body of a child for ever, to make my mother happy’. The book and her mother’s suicide have raised the question of who or what is to blame for anorexia and other eating disorders.
Isabelle’s father Christiano, said in a statment that Marie Caro felt ‘enormous guilt’ at her daughter’s death. He claims that she committed suicide because of guilt at her decision to put their daughter in the hospital where she later died. She reached breaking point with the negative press her daughter received after her death, particularly an interview given by Toscani, describing Isabelle as arrogant and self-promoting.
The double tragedy has renewed debate on the way in which mothers are often unfairly blamed for their daughter’s eating disorders. I’ve written before on this issue (see here and here) and, whilst family dynamics can play a part in the disorder, this is by no means always the case. In reality the disorder is the result of a number of complex and interlocking factors, rather than just one simple cause. We would love there to be a single baddie in a black hat – Size Zero Models, The Media, Over-Protective Parents. But it’s not like that.
This story is a sobering reminder that what seems to be a clear-cut verdict on paper can have terrible consequences for those who are involved. Life is complicated and in scapegoating others, we simply widen the wreckage.