Netflix show “Insatiable” condones fat-shaming

Madelyn DePodesta

Opinion Staff Writer

mdepodes@unca.edu 

Over the past couple of years, Netflix has proven to be capable of producing thought-provoking, meaningful television shows and movies. Between the creative genius of “Stranger Things,” the heartwarming plot lines of the “Queer Eye” reboot and the diversity of “Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix has something for a variety of audiences.

Yet, Netflix’s new show “Insatiable” falls short on progressiveness. If anything, it moves in the opposite direction.

Featuring former Disney Channel star Debby Ryan, “Insatiable” follows the story of overweight high school student Patty Bladell, who constantly faces bullying and harassment for the way her body looks.

Jamie Choate, president of the Active Minds club, hopes to join forces with other organizations on campus to bring more awareness to body shaming. Photo by Madelyn DePodesta

When a punch in the face leaves Patty’s jaw wired shut for three months, she loses an incredible amount of weight and returns to high school with not only a “revenge body,” but also with an insatiable desire to get revenge on everyone who wronged her.  Under the guidance of struggling beauty pageant coach/accused pedophile Bob Armstrong, played by Dallas Roberts, Patty dedicates her time to becoming a glamorous beauty queen and pageant winner.

Prior to her drastic weight change, Ryan (as Patty) wore a fat suit along with drab, ill-fitting clothes.

Even before the show’s release on Netflix, “Insatiable” received backlash from critics and viewers alike accusing the show of fat-shaming.

After the trailer for the show aired on Netflix, a petition was created to cancel the show’s release, gathering more than 230,000 signatures. It’s easy to agree or want to sign, with an episode title like “Skinny is Magic” or how Patty’s character becomes a fashionista after she loses weight.

Several topics presented in the show are used as jokes or comedic tools, rather than being taken seriously. Patty’s weight, her best friend struggling with her sexuality and Bob being an alleged pedophile all get written off as cheap jokes, rather than progressing the plot or being addressed seriously.

“I heard about the show on social media, and that it was questionable,” sophomore Caitlin Doherty, a Mass Communication major, said. “So I decided to watch it and it is questionable. There’s this one scene where she’s wearing the fat suit and the band was behind her playing the drum while she walked down the hallway. It didn’t look like a sad scene, it was just corny. I feel like they used her being bigger than everyone else as a joke.”

The idea of the show had potential to be a poignant commentary on beauty standards in the media, but the message of the show clearly exemplifies the notion that being skinny is necessary to accomplish your goals.

“I feel like they tried to send a good message, but are sending a horrible one instead,” Doherty said. “If you’re gonna try and send a good message, make sure you’re doing it right.”

Netflix released “Insatiable” fairly recently, but if the show was released 15 years ago, perhaps it would not have faced this much controversy. Fat-shaming represents an important issue that just recently entered the public eye, but has been present in popular media for ages. For example: Courteney Cox’s fat suit on “Friends,” was the punchline to several jokes throughout the entire series.   

“Even though we are trying to bring in more ‘plus-sized’ models they still have to be a certain kind of “plus” to even be considered a model,” said Carolina Zatta, a general wellness focus group leader for Peers Educating Peers and Advancing Health, or PEPAH.

“What I have interpreted is that they have to be the hour-glass shaped but plus size, most stereotypical women don’t have that type of body shape,” Zatta said. “But I have to applaud Aerie for being one of the most respected and representative of all sorts of women and that’s why I enjoy buying their clothes.”

While strides are being taken in order to make plus-size models and clothes more prevalent to the public eye, ideas presented similar to the ones in “Insatiable” make it easy for such progress to back track.

“It’s hard for me to watch just because I know people who have struggled with it,” said Jamie Choate, president of the Active Minds club. “It’s something near and dear to my heart; I think everyone should enjoy who they are and what they are.”

Television shows and movies featuring confident, plus-size women are extremely important to people who feel like they are not represented on screen. Casting an averagely built actress and putting her in a fat suit should not be considered the plus-size representation that is so crucial to ending body shaming in the media.

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