When I first heard about The CW pilot that was sold to Netflix, I was intrigued. By the time the trailer for Insatiable was released, however, I had little desire to watch it. The series centers around a high school student named Patty (Debby Ryan), who’s bullied for being overweight until she finds sudden popularity after dropping some pounds. Insatiable showcases Patty as a “former fatty,” ready for payback against her bullies. Disgraced attorney Bob Armstrong (Dallas Roberts) sees her potential as a beauty queen and begins coaching Patty. However, Armstrong and his wife Coralee (Alyssa Milano) have no idea how deep Patty’s rage goes, and how far she’s willing to go to exact revenge.
Not only does Insatiable glorify eating disorders, but it also promotes fat-shaming. It’s no surprise a series so offensive would mobilize viewers to start a petition asking Netflix to take it off the air. The petition on Change.org has garnered over 200 thousand signatures since the trailer originally dropped in July, calling the program “tone-deaf.”
In spite of all the media hoopla, I wanted to give Insatiable a fair shot and see if it’s really as problematic as the trailer makes it out to be. Four minutes into the pilot and I had my answer: A resounding yes. Keep reading for a comprehensive look at all the ways Insatiable is a problematic mess.
1. The Fat Suit From Hell
Insatiable glorifies beauty pageants and physical beauty over all else, and that fat suit is like a glaring blister in the eye. Do we really need another show about someone who loses weight so she can become popular, pretty, and worthy? Why couldn’t Netflix hire a strong, confident, plus-size actress and make a coming-of-age series about how she thrives in her own skin, bullies be damned?
2. Who really thinks “skinny is magic”?
Three months after getting punched and having her jaw wired shut, Patty is unable to eat so she rapidly loses weight. Clearly, this is not a safe way to shed some pounds, and it sends a bad message to the younger audience. What’s worse is Ryan is a former Disney channel star with a lot of impressionable fans. Starring in a series where her character is afraid to eat so she can stay thin and beautiful definitely sends the wrong message.
While Patty does have moments of humanity, like when she breaks down with her body image struggles, those are quickly swept aside and forgotten. In fact, the series doesn’t hold back on criticizing a variety of body types. Whether you’re curvier or slender, Insatiable fails to understand people’s relationship with food. The stereotype of a fat girl polishing off an entire cake alone is trite. That is hardly representative of any girl who struggles with her weight, or enjoys food, or doesn’t fit into rigid beauty standards projected by the media.
3 . Newsflash: Women can actually support each other!
Do women really need to be fighting each other? Why can’t we can’t show strong women supporting and empowering each other instead?
It’s 2018 and we are long past the archaic notion that two women need to brawl on camera in the name of comedy. I’d rather see two women lift each other up and become self-sufficient. I don’t want to see women cat-fighting or in competition with each other. I’m so over it.
There are enough seats for all of us at the table.
4. It’s time to shame everyone.
Episode 5, which is aptly titled “Bikinis and Bitches,” not only slut-shames women, but it goes one step further and over-sexualizes them. (Oh, the irony is not lost on us!) By using female bodies as props, Insatiable steers us into dangerous territory. Why do only thin women show up to support people recovering from eating disorders? This is an issue “Bikinis and Bitches” doesn’t even bother to explain.
This brings me to my next point: Calling girls whores, sluts, and bitches isn’t right. When these insults come from another woman’s mouth, they cut even deeper. Insatiable doesn’t explore this narrative effectively, choosing instead to glaze over a pertinent issue in favor of cheap laughs and poorly-fired one liners.
5. There are no consequences for Patty in this crazy world.
The half-eaten cherry on top of this sloppy mess of a teen comedy comes at the end of the season. Yeah, we’re talking about when Patty flat out commits murder without ever suffering any consequences. Even for a poorly-executed satire like Insatiable, this is a very low point (and it’s not even funny or enlightening).
Patty clearly has serious issues with aggression and rage which are not properly addressed. Rather than making her character accountable for her heinous behavior, Insatiable unfairly points the finger at external forces. Whether it’s the bullies, her mother, or “society,” Patty sure knows how to shift the bad attention from herself and onto someone else. No one is denying that Patty has endured a lot in her life, but she’s so unlikable that it’s difficult to root for her at all.
6. One small glimmer of body positive hope.
During the big pageant, we meet plus size Dee (Ashley D. Kelley) who drops truth bombs about body images and confidence with such ease. However, her appearance is six episodes too late. The damage is already done, and one episode and one thoughtful scene can’t save this sinking ship. It’s a shame because Dee is the only semi-inspirational character on this show. As a plus size woman, Dee actually loves her body and confidently speaks up for herself. She isn’t a punchline or a character to be pitied.
Unfortunately, by the time Episode 9 rolls around, Dee’s empowering character has transformed into the stereotypical angry black woman. And just like that, Dee’s body-positive attitude fades away into distant memory.
7. Apparently, you should stay with the controlling boyfriend.
Then there’s Patty’s boyfriend Christian (James Lastovic) who professes his love in a very clingy and forceful manner. His interactions with Patty are cringeworthy, and he easily asserts control over her life. Insatiable teeters around the topic of domestic abuse with Christian and Patty’s relationship, but it doesn’t address it head on. Rather than highlighting Christian as someone to be feared, he’s glorified as the hot bad boy.
As Season 1 progresses, Christian becomes more and more obsessed with Patty. When she no longer wants to be with him, he straight up refuses to accept it. Instead, he stalks Patty with a GPS tracking device. At one point Nonnie (Patty’s BFF) tries to stand up to Christian, and he shoves her. Unfortunately, no one ever acknowledges Christian’s messed up behavior on the show.
Christian’s delusions run so deep that ⏤ in an attempt to make a romantic gesture ⏤ he drugs and kidnaps Patty’s frenemy, Magnolia, in order to lure Patty back into his life. This certainly puts a murderous twist on teen romance and perpetuates the idea that you should stay with an aggressive creep. Attention ladies: you deserve better. Seriously.
8. Sexual Harassment is never a joke.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they do. Early in the first season, a teenage girl falsely accuses Patty’s lawyer and pageant coach, Bob, of sexual harassment. The girl’s mother points at Bob and screams that he touched her “hoo hoo.” The joke falls flat.
In the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the insensitivity and sheer ignorance with which Insatiable addresses this sensitive issue is incomprehensible. The show’s writers can clearly do better than throwing out cheap jokes. With everything going on in the world in 2018, sexual assault and harassment should not be used as a tool for comedy.
While Insatiable aims to tackle important issues, the end result simply misses the mark. Even as a satire, this series prove to be far too problematic. So do yourself a favor and skip this one. You’ll thank us later.
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