Sarah Grace Golden
When Netflix unveiled their latest show, “Insatiable,” it was met with instant criticism. Over 230,000 people were so offended that they signed a petition for its removal on Change.org before the pilot was even released.
What makes the TV series so controversial? It seems to be running with the same tired format: a fat person isn’t lovable until they get skinny, and suddenly become beautiful and desirable.
However, it seems that Netflix was attempting to criticize society’s view on overweight individuals, rather than glorify it. Whether or not they did this successfully is the real question.
The Netflix original stars Disney actress Debby Ryan as teenager Patty Bladell. For years, “Fatty Patty” experiences relentless bullying and social ostracization, but after an accident that required her jaw to be wired shut, she resurfaces with a new identity- one that is skinny, beautiful and vengeful.
Patty may have become beautiful on the outside, but losing seventy pounds didn’t help her from becoming bitter and resentful. It also didn’t curb her binging habit, which is a very real effect of eating disorders. There are several scenes in which Patty reverts back to her bad habits and eats hysterically while others look on in disgust.
The overused storyline repeated in “Insatiable” is not only uninspired, but potentially harmful. Creator of the petition, Florence Given, claims that it bodyshames more than it helps. In the official petition statement, she says “the toxicity of this series, is bigger than just this one particular series. This is not an isolated case, but part of a much larger problem that I can promise you every single woman has faced in her life, sitting somewhere on the scale of valuing their worth on their bodies, to be desirable objects for the male gaze. That is exactly what this series does. It perpetuates not only the toxicity of diet culture, but the objectification of women’s bodies.”
‘Insatiable,’ even when attempting to magnify the unrealistic body standards for teenage girls, just ends up mostly perpetuating it.
Hollywood’s obsession with stuffing skinny actors in fat-suits is bizarre. Instead of hiring an actress with the desired body type for flashbacks, Debby Ryan is given prosthetics and a fat-suit. In this way, it almost seems as if directors are making fun of people that actually look like that, like their body is a costume.
Constance Grady, writer for Vox, says “This fantasy is gross. It is born out of violent self-loathing, out of the desire to hurt and maim and punish a body that our culture has decided is unacceptable.”
More than just the issues with fatphobia, “Insatiable” has an interesting sense of humor regarding molestation. A running gag is that Dallas Robert’s character Bob Armstrong was falsely accused of touching an underage girl.
Throughout the series, Bob can’t seem to stop getting into sticky situations with high schoolers, including being caught in the same room as shirtless Magnolia Barnard and lingerie-clad Patty. This continues to normalize the act of grown men and women, especially those who are supposed to be protectors, crossing the line of what is professional and appropriate with children.
While Netflix was well-aware that they were delving into sensitive issues, but rather than making real commentary, they just seem to miss the mark. There are ways to bring light to delicate topics without fat suits and rape jokes. In a very Thirteen Reasons Why-esque way, “Insatiable” seems to have its heart in the right place with poor execution. Netflix should accept that this series is not the off-beat, innovative satire it claims to be.
Fatphobia and eating disorders are very real issues that men and women face every single day. One thing that the show did well was convey the feelings of isolation when Patty was overweight, as well as the sudden sexualization she received when she was deemed conventionally attractive.
Another thing I think was spot-on was the fact that, was that even though people began to treat her differently, Patty still dealt with the same craving and shame she did before her weight loss. “Skinny isn’t magic,” is a phrase that gets repeated throughout the show that I think sums that notion up well.
The series is supposed to be an edgy take on the horrors of bullying, trauma and body image issues. However, it comes off as tactless and one-dimensional. This show is not the most helpful for those struggling with eating disorders or self-worth and shouldn’t claim to be. Rather than pretending to be an outlet, “Insatiable” should focus on being a source of entertainment. It currently does not succeed as what it wants to be.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment