Netflix’s Insatiable: Fat Shaming or No Big Deal?

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Ashley Aguilar, Author

Netflix’s new series Insatiable aired this August and immediately got backlash for body shaming.

Insatiable focuses on high school student Patty Bladell (played by Debby Ryan) who has been bullied and ignored because of her weight. Following an attack that injures her jaw and requires her mouth to be wired shut, she comes back to school thin and ready to take revenge on everyone who previously bullied her.

Besides her desire to be even thinner and more beautiful is the love interest Bob Armstrong, a 40-year-old lawyer and beauty pageant coach. Patty wants him to fall in love with her and end his marriage to a woman Patty dislikes.

Even before the series aired, when Netflix debuted the trailer it immediately stirred up controversy and was accused of fat shaming. What is the controversy? Viewers have taken offense with a number of points. One is the show’s premise that being fat makes a person unworthy and a target for bullies. Also, in the scenes where Patty is overweight, actor Debby Ryan is wearing a fat suit; many people find fat suits to be highly offensive.

In addition, when she loses weight, it is not in a healthy way. She was punched in the face by a homeless man, and after the incident her jaw is wired shut, meaning she cannot physically eat for a period of time. This is not realistic and sends a dangerous message to people struggling with body image and weight loss.

After the show aired, a Change.org petition received 235,413 signatures for the show to be canceled and not to have a second season, according to Change.org. The organization claims that Insatiable gives a narrative that women and girls must be thin in order to be popular, have friends, and be attractive.

Netflix vice president original series Cindy Holland defended the show, saying it is not guilty of fat shaming. She said that Lauren Gussis, the show’s creator, “felt very strongly about exploring these issues based on her own experiences, but satirically, in a very over the top way,” Holland told reporters, according to Deadline.

“Ultimately, the message of the show is that what is most important is you feel most comfortable in your own self,” Holland said. She noted that the issue of fat shaming is in the DNA of the show.

Alyssa Milano, who plays Coralee Huggens-Armstrong, Bob Armstrong’s wife, took to Twitter to say, “We are not shaming Patty. We are addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from from fat shaming. I hope that clears it up.” She also directed readers to an article on Teenvogue.com.

People on Twitter aren’t buying it.

“Really….so she wasn’t able to take revenge until she was ‘conventionally attractive’? This is disgusting! You are the face of the women’s movement and THIS? Shame on you!” said Amber Victoria on Twitter.

Another tweeted, “@Alyssa_Milano i read the article and i still think this is horrible. Just the story alone of her having her jaw wired shut for the summer and magically losing so much weight she transforms into a super thin person, it’s communicating unrealistic ideals to young girls.”

The Teen Vogue article really just focuses on Patty craving revenge.

Debby Ryan told Teen Vogue in an interview, “People don’t fully understand the depth and breadth and fire of Patty’s rage. And I don’t think Patty does, either, so throughout this process she’s kind of discovering how far she’ll go to either exact revenge on anyone who’s wronged her or, in her mind, make things right and give herself all of the things she was robbed of or felt she was robbed of.”

Paige Romero, a Santa Fe High student, said, “I watched the first episode and I hated it. To start off, the main character was wearing a fat suit. Whenever I watch a movie or TV show, the suit is never used in a positive way. They’re always used temporarily until the character gets a makeover. They’re always used to show how hilariously unattractive and gross they once were. Also, the way she lost all that weight was so unrealistic and it was not in a healthy way.”

Paige added that is was a “great way to send out a positive message to teens.”

Daniela Menjivar, another Santa Fe High student, said, “I haven’t seen the show yet, but people have told me it’s very offensive, and after hearing what they have said I kind of do think Netflix should not air out something like this because a lot of people our age nowadays struggle with issues like this, and struggle to fit in, and I can see something like this can bring a lot of people down.”

There are twelve episodes, and in the season finale, (SPOILERS AHEAD), Patty finds herself kidnapped and handcuffed to a food truck. Her kidnapper, beauty pageant coach Stella Rose, attempts to stage Patty’s death as a suicide, monologuing to her, “When you couldn’t numb your feelings with food, you took your own life.”

Patty responds, whimpering, “That’s not who I am anymore.”

Stella Rose replies, “You’ll always be Fatty Patty.”

Patty takes it as a wake-up call. She uses whipped cream to lubricate her hand enough to get it out of the handcuffs. The episode ends with Patty killing her ex-boyfriend after he tells her she’s a bad person. After killing him, she calls Bob Armstrong to help her get rid of the the body and her ex-boyfriend’s car. After pushing the car into the lake, Patty reveals that she might have killed Stella Rose, too.

Insatiable has been renewed for a second season on Netflix, and many people are not happy with it. But there are some who look forward to Season Two and don’t understand why people are making such a big fuss about it.