Viewers classify Netflix’s Insatiable as fat-phobic

Izzy Basso, Staff Writer

As played out in Netflix’s recent original, Insatiable, Hollywood’s familiar plot line of: “bullied fat girl gets skinny and beautiful” sparks a controversy on the current beauty standards in our society.

Starring the former Disney Channel star Debby Ryan, Netflix takes a dark twist on beauty standards, teen bullying and vengeance. For Patty’s whole life, she had been constantly harassed by her former classmates because she was overweight. Patty gets punched in the face, and as a result goes through summer with a wired shut jaw. As an outcome, Patty loses 70 pounds. She then makes a pact with herself to make all her antagonists feel the pain she felt as bullied “Fatty Patty.” Ultimately, Patty’s hunger for revenge begins to turn into psychotic tendencies.

On July 19, the trailer for Insatiable dropped, leaving some critics horrified. To Netflix, it seemed like a regular teen comedy. It touches Patty’s life as an overweight teenager trying to make it through highschool while being bullied daily. 30 seconds into the trailer, the former “Fatty Patty” scales down into a thinner more attractive and confident version of herself. First day back to school, nobody could recognize her or keep their eyes off her. Critics felt that the trailer promoted an unhealthy view of obesity already prevalent in high schools.

Because she is thin in real life, Debby Ryan wears a fat suit. Sophie Hagen, an opinion journalist, stated in her article published by The Guardian, “Let fat people play the role of fat people.” Hagen believes that using the fat suit makes the audience believe that weight is temporary and is something that can be lost as easily as taking off a suit. She also feels that Hollywood uses fat suits because people are uncomfortable viewing actual fat people.

Other critics say Insatiable gives off a controversial message mainly towards teenage girls:  fat people shouldn’t feel comfortable in their own bodies (as Patty hated her body). Thus, becoming skinnier, changing your appearance to fix your body, is the solution. “Insatiable means impossible to satisfy and this show is basically formed around this idea that society is impossible to satisfy,” senior Lauren Fiedler said. “The producers do a terrible job portraying that idea and in turn, they are saying that skinny is the only way to be happy.”

Twitter blew up, claiming Insatiable was fatphobic, detrimental towards young womens’ self esteem, and would trigger eating disorders. A petition urging Netflix to cancel the show even earned over 130,000 signatures one month before the release date.

People have contested that this is not Netflix’s only controversial series. Last year, Netflix released 13 Reasons Why, a show that some critics believes glorified suicide among teens. Although, some people believe it advocated suicide prevention; their researchers found that there was a 19 percent rise in internet searches on suicide within the first few weeks of the release date.

Entertainment critic Shilpa Ganatra suggests that if Netflix is going to release another controversial show, it must focus on influencing their audiences positively instead of fat shaming references. “If that’s their target subject matter, it’s critical it’s done well in order for its audience to walk away with positive messages, rather than the motto of ‘skinny is magic’ that it repeats,” Ganatra states in her review of the show in The Guardian.

Demographic studies have shown that the incidence of eating disordering have been increasing in young girls and the media, through a process called socialization, contributes to this rising trend in which children are exposed to all types of media that support the idea of society’s ideal body for females and males. PMC, the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, states these cultural norms drive young adolescents to aim for a “perfect body”, leaving them self critical of their own body image.

The media’s “perfect body” image is spreading throughout American high schools and different high schools deal with this problem differently. According to a 2017 Chicago Tribune article, a South Carolina high school principal scolded her assembly regarding their dress code.  She told them that unless they were a size zero or a 2, they could not wear leggings because “even though you’re not fat, you look fat.”

Stevens contrasted the South Carolina school, wrapped up in cultural norms dictated by the media, with ETHS. ETHS had just come out with a brand new dress code that emphasized how certain language that shamed students in the dress code was never to be used or implied anymore.  There was an excerpt of the new and improved 2017 dress code that mentioned no tolerance for “oppression of any group based on … or body type/size.” While ETHS attempts to combat societal body standards, they can’t prevent what students watch at home.

Many Netflix viewers binging this series in a matter of days may have enjoyed the show, and disagree with media review websites like Vox and Rotten tomatoes. Overall, the majority of the audience, 80 percent, is pleased with the series.

However, Vox’s journalist, Constance Grady stated,  “one of the cruelest and most poorly crafted shows I have ever seen..” regarding her review on Insatiable. In addition, she believes the show portrays a sickening fantasy that embraces violence in order to change your body type and gain societies acceptance. Rotten tomatoes critics gave Insatiable 11 percent due to the shows extensive stereotypes, careless social dialect, and lack of effort at “wokeness.”

Despite Netflix’s initial hope for an eye opening comedy, many of its viewers perceive the show’s content differently. Lauren Guissis, creator of Insatiable, endeavored to show society how fat people are affected by common mistreatment especially in school environments. Between the public uproar caused by the shows depiction of body shaming and it’s overall reviews, Netflix has not announced whether or not there will be another season.

*A shorter version of this article was published in the Sept. 28 issue of The Evanstonian.