The Issue with Insatiable

The Issue with Insatiable

by Liz Black

Satire, Fat Shaming, Tired Tropes or All of The Above? Insatiable Manages to Confuse and Offend in a Myriad of Different Ways.

It’s rare that a show is instantly hated before it even airs, but Insatiable has earned that crown. The trailer features main character Patty in an its-so-obvious-it hurts pillow-esque fat suit being taunted by her peers, sadly stuffing her face with food, being punched in the mouth and subsequently dropping 70 pounds after having her jaw wired shut. This weight loss, of course, all happens during the summer break before her senior year, giving maximum power to that cliche “fat to fab” transformation.

From there, the show continues to spiral into a collection of confusing and often offensive storylines.

Issue with Insatiable
Photos: Tina Rowden/Netflix

Imagine a series that mashes together some memorable aspect from every beloved teen movie and TV show, and you’ve got Insatiable. A mess of a show that can’t figure out what it wants to be. It echoes Drop Dead Gorgeous, Jawbreaker, The Breakfast Club, Mean Girls, Heathers, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Clueless, and countless other notable cult classics. There’s a coming-of-age voiceover, a makeover scene (of course), boyfriend-stealing, awkward lunchroom issues, crushes on inappropriately-older men, a love triangle between Patty and an all-American stereotypical “good boy” and a knock-off of Christian Slater’s “bad boy” character from Heathers (who is literally named Christian — “My name and my religion,” he says with an eye roll), beauty pageant shenanigans, loads of daddy issues, a rivalry that turns sexual which leads to divorce which leads to a “thruple” (wait, what?), a demon that turns out to be a teratoma (what is happening?), an exorcism that features Jon Lovitz as the voice of reason, two kidnappings...wait, make that three kidnappings, and two murders (or maybe three — did that homeless guy die because Patty wished it?). All of that nonsense spews across the screen in twelve episodes, peppered by constant reminders that fat is bad, nay, fat is the worst thing you can be. Worse than a liar, or criminal, or kidnapper, or murderer, all which Patty becomes after she sheds the weight.

But out of the dreck emerges one bright body-positive light; Dee, a gorgeous, dark-skinned plus size girl and one of the beauty pageant contestants for “Miss Magic Jesus.” When attacked with comments of “Move fatty!” by one of the lead mean girls, Dee doesn’t crumble like Patty, instead she eviscerates the mean girl with her words, replying, “I like the way I look, that’s why I do pageants. To show people that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.” Dee’s confident response speaks volumes about who she is, and we’re left wanting more of her story. While Patty becomes more and more focused on her looks and revenge, Dee reminds her, “Being skinny don’t mean shit if you’re ugly on the inside.”

Dee shines not just as a body-positive beacon, but as a LGBTQ one too, openly dating another girl while managing to steal center stage with her phenomenal voice at the church pageant. But ultimately, Insatiable falls back onto antiquated, lazy, TV tropes that we’ve seen for decades.

If the show was intended to be satire then that gets mired in the main theme of fat=shame, skinny=confident. It’s hard to imagine that a popular and seemingly discerning network like Netflix would let this show slide as is and not refine the execution so the backlash and negative messaging wasn’t so immense.

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