Identity

'Insatiable' Is a Perfect Example of How to Get Body Positivity Totally Wrong

The forthcoming Netflix show's plot is literally about how getting punched in the face by a man made a fat girl become "hot."
July 23, 2018, 9:08pm

The only time I’m not thinking about food is never, so I was psyched when an ad for a new Netflix series called Insatiable, starring an actress I hadn’t seen before, popped up on my Twitter feed. Given my affinity for Netflix programming involving copious amounts of cake footage (The Great British Baking Show) or travel for the sole purpose of eating (Ugly Delicious), I was stoked. Was Netflix giving me the female Anthony Bourdain (RIP) food show of my dreams?

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HAHAHA, not even close! Insatiable’s trailer starts with a teenage girl gazing unhappily into a mirror because her dog died—jk, it's because she's fat. Something about her looks a little off, I thought, as I watched her discover the words "Fatty Patty" spray-painted on her locker and self-medicate with a pint of ice cream on the couch. One punch to the face (yup! a dude straight-up hits her!) later, and…she’s thin! Patty’s former odd appearance suddenly made sense: The show put pre-punch Patty in a fat suit. In 2018.

Did no one making this show realize how grotesque it is to use a trait that unjustifiably plagues so many people, including young girls, in such a disposable way? Just because it’s more feasible (re: convenient) to start with a thin actress and depict her as being heavier doesn’t mean it should be done. Real fat people in real fat bodies don’t have the luxury of shedding their skins to gain wider acceptance. Dumb stereotypes are bad enough, but it’s stupid for the media to reduce marginalized groups to the one quality they’re chastised for, and then discard them as easily as unzipping a fat suit.

The fat suit was just the first of many indicators that this show’s premise is out-of-touch and archaic. If you’re wondering how an act of physical violence against a young woman is supposed to lead to weight loss (or why anyone thought there was an excuse for being lazy and wrongheaded enough to use a fat suit in a TV show): I have no real answers for you, but according to the trailer, Patty had her jaw wired shut post-face punch! No more shameful ice cream binges. Now, Patty competes in a bikini contest benefitting an eating-disorder recovery clinic. (Yes, really! I couldn't make this up if I kept a stream-of-consciousness diary while hooked up to a feeding tube filled with psychedelics for 8,000 years.)

The rest of the trailer plays out like a more sinister version of pretty much any 90s makeover movie: Fatty Patty—sorry, THIN + HOT Patty—vows to seek revenge on classmates who have wronged her, because losing weight is the only way to feel strong enough to stand up for yourself against cruel people (unless, of course, you just eat all of them). Patty is only “empowered” once the results of her starvation diet gain her acceptance, which is a wildly irresponsible premise for a television show geared towards teenagers. It reinforces the flawed belief that only getting thin (and especially getting thin fast!) will get you what you want and will make people like you.

Let's review: we've got fat suits, fat people/junk food-bingeing banalities, unsafe amounts of weight loss, mouth-tethering, thin privilege, and jokes about eating-disorder recovery which are chock-full of SUPER FUNNY triggers. The good news: It couldn't get worse?

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It’s weird to me that this show stars Alyssa Milano, pioneer of the #MeToo movement (for which I'm #grateful) and inventor of Pepperidge Farm's most delightful cookie (about which I’m #kidding). What the hell is she doing in a show that so shamelessly promotes fat-shaming? Weight-loss propaganda targets everyone, but if "thinspiration" and diet culture are vultures, women are their main prey.

Milano's involvement in Insatiable isn't just hypocritical. It's wildly tone-deaf. When critique for the trailer came pouring in last week, she tweeted, "We are not shaming Patty. We are addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from fat shaming. I hope that clears it up…" Sure—that cleared up the fact that no one involved with this show seems to understand that putting a thin actress in a fat suit and yielding to tired clichés about fat people IS shaming in and of itself! Even if the rest of the show is body-positive and pro-fat, as soon as fat becomes a costume and jokes about eating disorders masquerading as satire are involved, those intentions fail.

The premise of Insatiable just reinforces the bullshit stereotypes fat people already have to put up with, rather than acting to dispel them.

Rather than "addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from fat shaming," why not build a series around a fat girl who is perfectly content with her life, has lots of friends, and puts any bitches who cross her in their places? And eats ice cream on her couch with unbridled joy because it's delicious, couches are comfortable, and she's a person with functioning taste buds—and all the while, she stays fat and happy?

TV needs more fat leading characters whose storylines aren't predicated by their weight. We know fat people get bullied—no surprises there. The premise of Insatiable just reinforces the bullshit stereotypes fat people already have to put up with, rather than acting to dispel them.

I'm still holding out for my female food/travel show host, Netflix. Until then, I'll be skipping Insatiable in favor of those busted cakes on Nailed It—ice cream pint in hand.