When a TV show’s trailer generates as much public scrutiny as Netflix’s Insatiable, it would most likely be in the streaming platform’s best interest to cancel it before its premiere. However, Netflix still decided to stream a show that promotes fat shaming and a negative stigma toward overweight bodies.
The show’s premise involves an overweight high-school student, Patty Bladell (often referred to as “Fatty Patty”), who loses 70 pounds in three months after being assaulted, causing her mouth to be wired shut. Patty then becomes thin and starts seeking revenge on all her peers who previously bullied and mocked her.
It is unsurprising that a show where a character’s self worth being related to her dress size would not be well received by a larger audience. Before Insatiable’s release date on Aug. 10, a Change.org petition already acquired over 200,000 signatures calling for the show’s cancellation.
Patty is played by actress and former Disney-Channel star Debby Ryan, who appears in a fat suit in the beginning of the first episode.
Dressing a thin actor in a fat suit has been a “comedic” device used in many popular shows to make a large body a punchline. Such instances include, Terry Jeffords in Brooklyn Nine Nine or Monica Geller in Friends, so the Patty character is no exception to this trope.
The use of this method — especially in the context of Insatiable — contributes to a narrative that one’s value is determined by their weight. It promotes the idea that when a body is fat, it can be the subject of ridicule and discrimination, but when the same body becomes a size deemed culturally acceptable, only then is personal and social success possible.
The show’s creator, Lauren Gussis, and one of the show’s stars, Alyssa Milano, took to Twitter to defend the show after the initial backlash received from the trailer release on July 19.
Gussis wrote, “This show is a cautionary tale about how damaging it can be to believe the outsides are more important — to judge without going deeper.”
Milano wrote in a Tweet, “We are addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from fat shaming.”
Even if their claims that Insatiable is a purely satirical comedy are sincere, it seems that satirizing a fat person’s experiences as based on relentless abuse until they lose weight is tasteless and lazy writing.
Patty’s fatness was reduced to a “sickness” and blamed on an out-of-control appetite.
Real people have diverse bodies.
Assuming a large body is an unhealthy body only perpetuates fat stigma.
Insatiable is not a ground-breaking comedy that gives light to body image issues, regardless of its creator’s intentions. Netflix should not be promoting a sitcom that alienates a significant part of its intended audience. A better narrative would showcase a fat character, played by a fat actor, who remains the same size throughout the show, and knows their worth and successes have nothing to do with a number on a scale.