Ana and Mia: Ophelia on the Web

Abstract

This study deals with Shakespeare’s Ophelia on the Internet and the pro-Ana (anorexia) and pro-Mia (bulimia) culture, specifically in online journals published by Ophelias from real life. These are girls who identify with the fictional character, as well as with the artist and model Elizabeth Siddal, when trying to justify their self-destructive impulses toward anorexia, bulimia, and physical self-punishment. In order to understand the dynamics of these virtual spaces and to perceive how Ophelia is subject to manipulations and alterations that influence her reception in different areas of our visual culture, this essay employs the idea of “atlas,” as developed by Georges Didi-Huberman who took Aby Warburg’s Album Mnemosyne (1927–29) as a point of departure. The participants of the Ana and Mia communities evoke a tradition of older paintings and photographs of Ophelia, distorted by their own expressive and aesthetic needs. As this essay demonstrates, in this context Ophelia embodies an apology of excess: a modernized devotion to the sick and to the nineteenth-century melancholy sufferer in the digital era.