This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
This post contains spoilers about Insatiable, obviously.
Now that the first season of Insatiable has landed on Netflix, we can confirm the suspicions we had when the fat-suit heavy trailer was released: The show is an incredible mess. The story is all over the place, there are too many narrators, and everyone in the show has either bad or horrible Georgia accents. Yet inexplicably, lead character Patty (Debby Ryan) doesn’t. A lot of the dialogue is really silly, and not in a fun, campy way—the grown-ass parents and 17-year-old high schoolers refer to vaginas as “hoo-hoos” or “hoo-has” on at least four occasions.
Besides being embarrassing, the show’s many attempts at offensive humor fall flat, trading in stereotype without a hint of commentary. Here are some of the cringiest or most problematic moments from the first season of Insatiable:
When Bob is falsely accused of sexual harassment.
The first things we learn about Patty’s lawyer and pageant coach Bob Armstrong (Dallas Roberts) is that he’s been falsely accused of sexual harassment by the mother of a pageant girl he was coaching:
We’re supposed to laugh because… this is also what real abusers say when accused? Only 2 to 6 percent of sexual assault reports are false, and this part of the story adds weight to the commonly spouted idea that women are unstable and falsely accuse men of rape to ruin their lives.
The two relationships that are just… statutory rape.
Regina, the woman who falsely accuses Bob of sexually harassing her daughter, is sleeping with Bob’s teenage son Brick. What’s worse is that Bob immediately makes the situation about himself, asking Brick if he chose to sleep with Regina in order to get back at him for being a bad father.
Brick rebuffs his parents’ accusation that Regina took advantage of him, expressing that “it wasn’t rape,” and that he said “yes, multiple times.” It’s almost never brought up between Brick and his parents again.
At the same time, Patty has a crush on Bob Armstrong. When her best friend Nonnie tells her she shouldn’t pursue Bob and says, “he’s a child molester,” Patty replies “which means I might actually have a shot!” Who wrote that line? I just want to talk.
When a trans character was briefly introduced and never mentioned again.
Patty organizes a bikini dog wash for charity (like a car wash, but you wash dogs), but is terrified of being seen in a swimsuit. Then, Insatiable briefly introduces a trans girl who runs into Patty in the bathroom where they’re both hiding out, and expresses that she understands Patty’s feeling of needing to keep working on her body. The girl’s experience, which is specific to her being trans, becomes the push that Patty needs to get over her fear of being seen in a bikini. She takes the girl’s hand and they walk out of the bathroom.
Insatiable may have thought it was being progressive by introducing a trans character and touching on her own body image issues, but the girl is never named or mentioned ever again.
Patty’s best friend Nonnie dates a black girl named Dee who puts in the labor of helping Nonnie come out as a lesbian. Also, Dee’s talent in the pageant is… rapping. If you needed a reminder that the creator of this show is white, the rap that Dee performs is incredibly awkward. It could have been funny, but it’s obvious that Insatiable is more interested in capitalizing on racial stereotypes rather than creating real satire about TV tropes because much like the character of the trans girl, Dee’s character isn’t given much nuance and only shows up to help the story keeping moving.
All the “bisexuality doesn’t exist” jokes.
Bob Armstrong realizes he has feelings for his nemesis, Bob Barnard, and he’s confused because he still loves his wife as well. He describes himself as bisexual, and Barnard invalidates him on multiple occasions, saying things like “Bi is just a stop on the train to Gayville.” Armstrong doesn’t believe he’s bi at first either, but when he realizes that it’s the label that best suits how he feels, Barnard continues to invalidate him.
Bi erasure is a common problem, and Insatiable doesn’t satirize it well at all—it heavily emphasizes that bisexuality is a state of confusion.
When Dixie faked being paralyzed.
Dixie, one of Patty’s bullies, comes back to school in a wheelchair after a fight with Patty apparently paralyzed her. She gains the sympathy of her classmates even though she initiated the conflict with Patty. Later, we find out Dixie was faking her disability, playing to a stereotype that some disabled people exaggerate or fake their disabilities for attention or special treatment.
When the villain’s backstory is that she was mentally ill.
Insatiable also takes shots at mental illness. On top of its inability to represent eating disorders well, and frequent use of the words “crazy” and “insane” to describe Patty and other characters, there’s Stella Rose, a woman who Bob Armstrong had an affair with. She comes back into his life to try and ruin him—eventually, she kidnaps Patty and tries to kill her. Just before she does, she tells Patty she was previously institutionalized. We have such a profound problem of negative disability representation already, and Insatiable only adds to the problem.
When Patty tried to lose a lot of weight in a short time, again.
Insatiable already tried to get us to believe that Patty lost 70 pounds in three months when her jaw was wired shut—that’s how she became thin at the beginning of the show. At the end of the season when Patty spirals and turns to food to deal with her fears and bad feelings again, she quickly works to lose ten pounds in one week. This requires starving herself, eating laxatives, and exercising twice a day.
People who were critical of Insatiable since the release of the trailer caught this right away—the show wants its characters to overcome fatness instead of finding ways for them to find happiness and comfort in their existing bodies.
After the second episode, Insatiable becomes about a lot more than revenge. That would be a good thing if the show offered more than lazy stereotypes, but it still took until the middle of the fifth episode for Insatiable to meaningfully focus on Patty’s lasting insecurities about her body. Other than a couple of scenes spent talking about Patty’s body dysmorphia, the show does a lot of things wrong—namely, it makes wildly offensive jokes and introduces lots of new stories without resolving old ones, all in the name of dark comedy. Sorry—sometimes, the show's attempt at social satire is so laughable that it ends up being the funniest part of the show.
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