Insatiable is Hungry for Attention

If Netflix is known for anything, it’s that they create TV series and films that dominate ratings across millennials and take social media by storm. From Stranger Things to Orange is the New Black to Thirteen Reasons Why, Netflix is notorious for their fascinating storylines and striking messages. This past summer, Netflix released what they believed would be their next statement-making sitcom to take the nation by storm: Insatiable. However, this show took a turn that neither Netflix, nor the show’s creators could have predicted, creating a slew of controversy globally.

Insatiable is a show starring former Disney Star Debby Ryan as Patricia "Patty" Bladell, a girl who was extremely obese, until her jaw was wired shut after a fight; this event caused her to lose effectively all her excess weight. After this extreme weight loss, Patty underwent a makeover, both physically and emotionally. She set out to seek revenge against those who wronged her while she was overweight, sparking interesting trials and tribulations for Patty.

Originally meant to be a satirical statement on body image, bullying, and fat shaming, the controversy surrounding the show’s handling of those issues has stirred discussion. Among some of the greatest issues that are drawn by critics from the plot is the fact that Patty is “bullied, ignored, and underestimated by those around her because of her weight.” In the show, it is not until Patty loses a substantial amount of weight that she is treated with decency from her peers and gains normal levels of self-confidence and self-appreciation. Audiences have found issue in the crude fat suit that Debby Ryan wears in the show, the unhealthy allusion to eating disorders in her weight loss regime, and the consistent perpetuation of a certain body ideal.

These voices have not gone unheard by show’s creators, cast, or Netflix. Insatiable’s creator, Lauren Gussis, released a statement on Instagram titled, “This is my truth,” detailing how Insatiable is a reflection of her own struggles with bullying, depression, and body shaming in her youth; she claims that she aspires to share a message about bullying and becoming comfortable in your own skin, all in a cautionary tale about revenge. Debby Ryan, the lead actress, also released a statement, saying how the story was not intended to shame bodies or perpetuate negative stereotypes, but instead, Insatiable is “a show that addresses and confronts those ideas through satire.”  Prominent figures, such as Roxane Gay, feel that this show has terribly missed its mark, and is instead perpetuating the very stigmas it means to satirize.

A petition, which garnered over 230,000 signatures, was created against this show, asking Netflix to cancel it before it even aired. Despite protests, Netflix still pushed forward with the show and asserted their allegiance to the show’s message. This entire dilemma prompts an important question in the realm of censorship. Should any idea, voice, or message be removed from general consumption due to others’ negative perceptions? Should the creators of this show be allowed to air their voice, even if doing so would counter the views held by audience members?

In this case, I think Netflix made the wrong move by releasing this show, not in terms of ratings or business, but in terms of the message they released to the young, easily impressionable audience they command. I do believe that the creators of this show harbored good intentions, but as seen from national outcry, this show simply is not being perceived as it predicted. Insatiable instead paints a negative narrative to hundreds of thousands of viewers, who struggle with the many issues this show is satirizing.

The debate of censorship in the spirit of avoiding to offend others is one that has been discussed countless times. In this politically correct generation, it is often hard to define the boundaries between offense and sensitivity. In Insatiable’s situation, this view continues to be skewed. Nevertheless, seeing as Insatiable has been renewed for a second season, it appears that the debate will continue.