TV critic Amrita Mande explains her love-hate relationship with Netflix’s latest controversial show that is sparking debate about body image and bullying
The second the trailer for Insatiable dropped, the internet was up in arms. Articles were popping up accusing the show of fat-shaming and a petition to get it cancelled got over 200,000 signatures and counting. In response, Netflix asked the public to wait and give the show a chance.
Well, I gave the show a chance. I saw all 12 episodes and I agree, people shouldn’t have prematurely attacked the show for fat-shaming- because that was the least of the show’s issues.
The problems start from the misleading premise; the show isn’t about a fat girl who loses weight and then goes on a Mean Girls-esque journey to get revenge. Honestly though, I can’t entirely fault the show’s creators for that; after watching it I don’t think I could explain such a strange and convoluted plot in less than a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good ol’ plot twist every now and then, but when a show changes direction every three episodes and ends the season with kidnappings, murders and exorcisms, you have to wonder how the show even got greenlit.
In this series Debbie Ryan plays the main character, Patty Bladell. Now, I’m all for a good anti-hero, but this show achieves new levels of cringe as Patty continues to make the exact same impulsive decisions that hurt others and then expects everyone to rally around to help her. She’s just a really terrible person and character who the audience can’t even cheer for because she’s just the worst.
Most of the other characters are so one-dimensional and lack any development that sometimes it feels like you’re watching a bad episode of Family Guy. And as much as I appreciate an ensemble cast, it’s not really a good sign when a C-storyline takes over and makes you forget the protagonist even existed. The show tries to use ‘satire’ as a shield against these criticisms but in trying so hard to be self-aware, the show flounders and drowns in its ambition.
Despite all this, I do believe that the show has a good heart deep, deep down. It tries to deal with social issues like LGBTQ+ issues and body image, but it often struggles to do these justice. One rare shining moment was in a scene between Patty and Nonnie, her best friend. Nonnie comes out to Patty and admits to having feelings for her. She then breaks down, afraid that she’s ruined everything. Patty tries to console her by saying, ‘I don’t care’, to which Nonnie responds, echoing the audiences’ thoughts, ‘You always make it about you’.
Sadly, this moment cannot redeem others, like when the show pats itself on the back for comparing being fat to being trans. Or when the show portrayed Nonnie who, early in the show, was trying to come to terms with her sexuality, as predator-like.
The show doesn’t get a pass on fat-shaming either. Despite ‘Skinny is magic’ being the mantra for the show, Patty’s life gets a lot worse after losing weight. But praising the show for not being as fat-shaming as it could have been is like thanking a mugger for not stabbing you after stealing your wallet.
In short, Insatiable is a train wreck that gets progressively worse every episode. But maybe that’s what got it renewed. Sure, it’s almost painful to watch at times but there’s just something about the insanity that’s addictive. Even though I had to keep pausing to process the madness, I just couldn’t help but watch it.