Netflix’s Polarizing and Vapid Series “Insatiable”

By, Katherine L. ’20

Regardless of whether or not you have spent a weekend or two binge-watching the new Netflix original series Insatiable, you have probably heard about the controversy surrounding it. But what sparked this controversy? 

Insatiable is the story of a high school girl who had previously struggled with a binge-eating disorder. In flashbacks to her overweight days, “Fatty Patty” is ruthlessly fat-shamed by her peers. However, everything changes when Patty is punched in the jaw by a homeless man. Her mouth is wired shut, she loses her ability to eat, and in a matter of weeks, she is seventy pounds thinner. This is where the show kicks off, and it proceeds to follow Patty as she seeks revenge on everyone that mistreated her. Netflix could have taken this premise in many different directions, but what Insatiable became was an offensive and poorly-written joke of which fatness is the punch line.

Those who stuck with the show know that it evolved into a possessed-by-demons, accidental-murder mess of a plot line. But for the sake of this article, I’ll focus on the topical issues that the show addresses. Despite the producers’ claim that Insatiable is a criticism of bullying and the obsession with appearances, it sends the opposite message: that to be not only popular, but also worthy, one must be skinny. One episode is even called “Skinny is Magic.” The show promotes fat-shaming and glorifies excessive weight loss, and that weight is not even lost in a healthy way. The camera often focuses unnecessarily on Patty’s body, which reinforces the idea that her body defines her. 

Sophia B. ’19 commented, “Being comfortable with myself, I could laugh at the ridiculousness of the show, but I feel like it could be very triggering for people struggling with body image or eating disorders.” The questionable content doesn’t stop at body image; Insatiable also includes gay and transgender slurs, a joke that implies bisexuality doesn’t exist, and a false molestation accusation.

Before we jump to the conclusion that Insatiable is blatantly offensive, however, we must consider the producers’ intention with the show, which was to present it as satire. Creator Lauren Gussis defended the series by claiming that “the show is a cautionary tale about how damaging it can be to believe the outsides are more important – to judge without going deeper.” Debbie Ryan, who plays Patty, added, “The redemption is in identifying the bullies and saying ‘this is not okay.’” 

However, satire is only successful when exaggerated to the extent that viewers cannot possibly take it seriously, and Insatiable fails to achieve that. Set in a high school and starring a former Disney Channel actress, the show is clearly directed at teenagers. 

By that logic, the producers of Insatiable expect teenagers to recognize it as satire, which is a lot to ask of an age group that is constantly surrounded by issues of body image already. Another element of satire that Insatiable lacks is an alternative to the toxic ideas it presents. Danya D.C. ’20 spoke to how this issue affects the show’s humor: “I’d like to think the writers were trying to be satirical, but without any positive counterexamples, there was nothing to keep the jokes from just being bad and off-color.” 

In response to Insatiable, hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition urging Netflix to cancel the series. The petition argues, “This series will cause eating disorders and perpetuate the further objectification of women’s bodies.” But despite the opposition, Netflix recently renewed the series for a second season. Ironically, the controversy gave the show publicity and increased its audience, so the Insatiable debate is far from over. But while it continues, spend your weekends binge-watching a show that rejects toxic ideas instead of spreading them.