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Insatiable Is Every Bit As ‘Fatphobic’ As Critics Feared It Would Be

Florence Given - the activist who started the petition to cancel Insatiable - has a message for Netflix...

When the trailer for Insatiable came out last month, it not only sparked intense fury but also a debate: should we 'no-platform' what was seemingly a fat-shaming TV show that had the potential to trigger thousands of people with eating disorders, or should we wait until the show airs before we judge it? We have waited, and now we can confirm, Insatiable is everything critics feared it would be, and more.

Last month, the 110 second preview of Insatiable spurred a petition by activist Florence Given, who demanded the show be cancelled claiming ‘it perpetuates not only the toxicity of diet culture, but the objectification of women's bodies’. The trailer detailed the life of Patty, known by her classmates as Fatty Patty, being punched in the face, having her jaw wired shut and losing 70lbs, then going on to enact revenge on all of her bullies.

Now, the show has debuted on Netflix, and has met the expectations of all previous critics, with all negative reviews, bar one, and an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. According to BuzzFeed’s Jennifer Guillaume, who cites showrunner Lauren Gussis’ defense that she wanted to portray being thin isn’t doesn’t ‘fix’ Patty (problematic language in itself), ‘the message being sent is less “losing weight doesn’t make you happy”, and more “being fat can cause you to turn into a literal demon who is never satisfied”.

The reviews state that the show not only fails to land it’s supposed core message, that losing weight isn’t what you think it is, but it continues a fat-shaming narrative throughout the series and ultimately sends the message that being fat means you have something wrong with you.

Beyond fat shaming, reviewers have called out offensive jokes about race, sexuality and homelessness. Plus, within the first ten minutes of the show, a storyline emerges whereby a pageant coach, Bob Armstrong, played by Dallas Roberts, is falsely accused of molestation by an angry mother whose daughter didn’t win first place in the pageant. It’s all a big joke on the show, told through various one-liners such as ‘I was an accused molester saying the victim made it up, which was almost as bad as if I’d actually done it’. Yeah… essentially this show is one big attempt to offend almost everyone on the planet.

This was noted by The Telegraph’s Ed Power, who stated in his review, ‘when Insatiable eventually tires of pressing the audience’s outrage buttons, [Bob] emerges as the most humane and plausible storyline. But by then most viewers will have run screaming, possibly sobbing, from this grisly, ghoulish non-com. ‘

Yet despite the show’s out-of-touch attempts at humour, Insatiable seemingly wants to appeal to the very audience it’s offending, the woke generation also known as generation Z (and millennials, it’s quite a large bracket). As Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya notes, ‘Insatiable wants woke points for paying lip service to body positivity and including queer and racially diverse characters—but it doesn’t earn them. Patty’s best friend Nonnie (Kimmy Shields), for instance, is repeatedly ridiculed for presenting as gay, to a point that goes beyond dark comedy.’

So, with a barrage of terrible reviews thrown at it just as it debuts, we spoke to Florence Given, creator of the petition to cancel the series. Having already spoken out about the personal messages she has had from young women about how triggering the trailer was for them (which you only need to look at the petition comments to see) she is more concerned with how viewers have been impacted by the show than the terrible reviews that she foresaw coming.

‘Spear heading this campaign, I have seen the effect the trailer alone has had on people struggling with eating disorders,’ Florence told Grazia, ‘people have said to have relapsed their eating disorders and even stopped eating the food in their hand when they saw the trailer.

‘This language related to binge eating puts people back in that place, and the narrative of this story just confirms the societal standard that “skinny is magic”, which is literally the name of episode two of the series.’

With all of this detailed in her call for cancellation online, Netflix are still yet to respond to the hundreds of thousands of people supporting Florence’s campaign. ‘It says a lot about how the company thrives on controversy,’ she continued ‘someone actually took their own life because of how 13 Reasons Why romanticised suicide, an open letter from the parents of the child written to Netflix was ignored, and they’re pursuing a third series.

‘Don’t get me wrong, I love Netflix,’ she said ‘there are so many positive and progressive series on there, but this one sets everything back at least 20 years when fat suits and narratives centering a young girl’s weight loss were acceptable. We need to prioritise mental health. Not discard and ignore the thousands of voices crying out to stop something that will further damage an existing problem.’

So, what does she want from Netflix and the creators of Insatiable going forward? ‘An apology,’ she said, ‘I would like Netflix, and the actors, to apologise. Alyssa Milano has outright said in an interview that she refuses to apologise, despite acknowledging that this has caused harm.

‘They need to take this show down, I have read only one positive review and it was written by a man. I can’t imagine the press is going to get much better for them now the show has been released. But Netflix don’t say we, 220,000 people, didn’t tell you so.’

There was initial hope that Insatiable would raise important issues around fat-shaming and show people that even in this age of body positivity, it’s okay that you don’t love your body. We’ve all grown up in a world where only one body type was deemed the height of beauty standards, and it’s no easy feat to escape that level of socialisation and realise that actually your body is perfect no matter what. We hoped that Insatiable would present a healthy example of this, that provides an alternative outlook to the people screaming online that you can’t express self-doubt without an empowering ending where you suddenly love yourself.

But what’s apparent is that there is no big, heart-warming ending to this story. The reviews have shown that actually, there is no empowering message behind it, and with offensive jokes around everything from sexuality to sexual assault, it will likely only trigger thousands more people than was originally feared.

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