Inattentive and Ill-Informed: Insatiable

Netflix’s new T.V. series, Insatiable, is problematic.

We pretty much all knew it the moment the trailer dropped and Suite Life on Desk star Debbie Ryan was in a fat suit. I was triggered numerous times while simply watching the ‘Pilot’. One of my friends texted me after watching the scene where protagonist Patty moves in slow-mo through the halls while everyone checks her out, saying she instantly bought into the narrative.

The thought crossed her mind that her life would be better if she lost a large amount of weight too. Another friend of mine who I talked to said that if she watched anymore after Patty’s lawyer says, “Pretty girls don’t have to settle”, she’d probably slide back from her recovery into her eating disorder, because the script is simply riddled with disordered thinking.

In the age of the 'bopo' movement, Netflix and Hollywood don’t know how to talk about eating disorders. Netflix hasn’t learned from past mistakes like the movie "To The Bone" in which a girl struggles to establish relationships and live with an ED. Lily Collins, a recovering anorexic, “safely” lost almost 20 pounds for the role. To place a person in recovery in such a triggering position was insanely irresponsible. It promoted a message to those in recovery that it’s somehow safe to drastically alter your weight post-diagnosis. The title of Insatiable alone is just pejorative. We’re led to believe our damsel in a fat suit got to be that way because of her “insatiable” appetite. Because the only way people could develop larger figures is due to a lack of control, right?

No, wrong.

The plot feeds into disordered eating thoughts. “If only I could control myself (see my diet, my exercise, my body), then I’d be happy (see slim).” Eating disorders are all about control. For many, it is a way to manifest some perception of control over your image in a society where the judgments of others are ingrained in our conversations. We’re surrounded by diet culture telling us to work towards an ever smaller waistline that will still never be enough. You have to break up with diet culture every day that you get out of bed. And it is the worst break up that I’ve ever gone through.

In most break ups, your friends and family encourage you by telling you that you deserve better. But in this one, very few people acknowledge how abusive the relationship is and help you wallow in it through subtly messaging like, “You exercise 6 days a week?! That’s amazing, keep it up.” No, it’s not amazing. It’s debilitating to fear that you will balloon in size if you go a week without a structured exercise regime. That you will actually look like fat-suited Debbie Ryan and be subject to the harassment dramatized in Insatiable, like the scene where her coffee offer is rejected by a boy she liked because of her appearance. The main problem is that Insatiable plays out the deepest fears of those with disordered thoughts and the thoughts become a visual reality that can be played over and over and over again.   

As long as production companies keep making tone-deaf content, no true progress will be achieved. This harm cannot be ameliorated by a simple trigger warning like the black screen and white text put before episodes of "Thirteen Reasons Why". Nor can it be fixed through a press release stating that it’s framed “satirically” and that in fact they are “not shaming Patty [the main character]”.

So, what do we do? We keep calling out these grotesque narratives in film, the news, and music. We demand that they write smarter characters with stories that do not center on perceivable changes in appearance. We wake up every day accepting that diet culture creates a false reality that takes work to break out of.

And we hold the door open for the next generation through awareness and representation.  

(quote from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/netflix-executive-responds-to-insatiable-fat-shaming-controversy/ )