So Yeah, I Did Watch Insatiable

I bet you’ve all heard the huge ordeal about Netflix’s original series, Insatiable.

According to Netflix’s own description, Insatiable is about an obese girl, Patty (Debbie Ryan), who has her jaw wired shut after getting punched in the face. Because of that she goes from fat to skinny. With her newly found body, Patty decides to get revenge on everyone that had fat-shamed her or wronged her in any way.

However, Insatiable first popped up in my world in the form of a petition to cancel it before it even aired on Netflix. The plea to sign the petition to cancel the show appeared in my mailbox almost instantaneously, and I would have missed it if the headline didn’t read “CANCEL Netflix’s Body Shaming Series ‘Insatiable’.” How could Netflix, who has been praised for pumping out shows like Stranger Things and the controversial yet informal 13 Reasons Why (and we won’t talk about that), produce a fat-shaming show in this political climate?

Well, I didn’t sign the petition. I’m usually not the one to boycott a show I have not even watched yet based only on the premise. I’m usually a “give it two episodes to see what it’s about” kind of person. So when Netflix ignored the boycott (which currently has over 200,000 signatures) and put out the show anyway, I decided to give it a try.

Watch out. There are many spoilers ahead.

As one who had dealt with an eating disorder before, I could see what the many people who signed the petition were trying to protect me from. Like Patty in the show, I had also gone from fat to skinny. I had also endured fat shaming to now being considered generally average. So as the first episode played on my TV, and I watched a girl binge eating her way into obesity over an extensive self-deprecating monologue, a small part of me managed to smirk and say, yeah, true. It’s kind of like seeing those posts on Facebook about wanting to be buried 6 feet deep and commenting a nonchalant, lol same.

What I’m getting at here is that it’s not as toxic as people wanted to make it seem. I mean, there’s a reason it was approved for a second season. Yes, it’s not for the faint of heart; Netflix did categorize it as a dark comedy, and it lived up to that. Dark comedies are dark for a reason: they don’t give a shit about your feelings. They want you to laugh at things that are normally taboo. And if one can’t handle it, they expect you to just, you know, not watch it.

Some of the things many people deemed problematic are actually problematic, sure, but only if you look at it from the face value. For example, is the fact that Insatiable shows the instantaneous popularity Patty gets once she becomes skinny something that is problematic, or is it only uncomfortable because it actually calls out how our society actually works? Because let’s face it: amid all the body positivity stuff going around, people are still little shits. But does this excuse it’s prolific and harsh jokes over the former Patty, or “Fatty Patty”? No.

While I do think the show is kind of funny in its own merit, I also think it could have been equally satirical while also teaching us something at the same time. For example, at the beginning of the show, Patty’s best friend Nonnie (Kimmy Shields) has an obvious crush on her, which is played out by jokes like, “We should totally make out to celebrate.” However, nearing the climax of the show when Nonnie is coming out of the closet, she calls out Patty for making everything about her and dismissing her friend’s obvious pleas to discuss her budding sexuality. At one point, Patty even tells her, “No, you’re not gay. I would know if you were,” and Nonnie’s face just about killed me. Here, Nonnie makes an explicit attempt to point out that Patty had always been conceited even before she was skinny, and everything pertaining to Nonnie’s life came as secondary. Although it isn’t explicitly said, Insatiable makes a point throughout their episodes that becoming skinny means nothing when it comes to Patty; instead, it just shows how truly ugly she is.

I, for one, was really excited for this extreme build up featuring Nonnie. I almost expected more discussion about coming out of the closet, how to deal with new feelings, and how to handle being in love with your best friend (who is pretty much a psychopath, I believe). But Nonnie’s story was just limited to one or two episodes. She gets a girlfriend. She tells Patty they can’t be friends anymore. Patty goes beserk. That’s it.

Although this build up and the subtle deconstruction of Patty’s character leads Insatiable a little bit away from the “body shaming” it was initially accused of, I do think it could’ve handled its content better. For example, maybe dedicating an episode to discuss Patty’s binge-eating disorder and not demonizing it. Or maybe not adding a trans character to the mix just to show Patty confiding in a person who also has body image issues, then totally throwing that character out after the scene is over.

Insatiable had so many moments to redeem itself and show the public it is not as toxic as it initially seemed. However, anytime they brought up something remotely problematic to dissect and discuss, they only scratch the surface level, throw in a few dad jokes to lighten the mood, and then cut to the next scene. It’s as if it wants to tell you yes, this would be a good conversation to have, but we’re not going to have it here. But really, the entire show could have been so much more if it did have those discussions.

After blowing through the first season in two days, I’ve come to the conclusion that you can still be satirical without being totally shitty. I just hope Netflix gets that message for season two.

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