Unless you’ve been logged off for the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen a fraction of the buzz and uproar surrounding Netflix’s new series, “Insatiable,” starring former Disney Channel sweetheart Debby Ryan. After Netflix dropped the trailer last month, viewers took to Twitter and Instagram to protest the show’s seemingly fat-phobic and harmful nature. A petition was even started days before the show’s debut, garnering over 230,000 signatures to date.
The trailer shows the main character, Patty — Ryan in a fat suit and other special effects makeup — returning to school after shedding 70 pounds and thus clearing her of the bullying she previously endured. Her dramatic weightloss is a result of her mouth being wired shut after a swift punch to the face, something that goes unmentioned in the trailer. Understandably, those with a history of eating disorders or body dysmorphia could be easily triggered and disillusioned by hearing someone’s so-called secret to weight loss is their mouth being wired shut.
The following outlash targeted aspects of the show such as the decision to dress Patty in a fat suit during the pilot episode; and the implication that Patty’s emotional, physical and social transformation is due to losing a massive amount of weight in an unrealistic way.
According to a Teen Vogue interview with the show’s head writer and Executive Producer Lauren Gussis, “Insatiable” aimed to shed light on, rather than perpetuate, issues pertaining to weight loss and eating disorders. The show’s writing and plot stem from Gussis’ personal battles with self-bullying — the inner voice that told her she was lesser — as a child. Patty’s character development, blueprinted out by Gussis, is an empathetic ode to her younger self.
“I really felt like it was important to look at [bullying] head on and talk about it,” Gussis said in the interview. “I’m hoping that if I’m gonna lay out all of my pain for humor, that I’m gonna make at least one person feel less alone […] Hopefully a lot of people through the laughter will be like, ‘Oh my God, I’m laughing because I relate. I’m not laughing at, I’m laughing with.’”
NYU students are divided on whether the show effectively executes Gussis’ intentions, or simply lacks class — and humor — in tackling a subject that hits home for many people. CAS sophomore Priscilla Preval found herself relating to Patty although, to her, the writing was at times handled poorly.
“After going through the motions of high school and finally starting college, I had finally started to realize that I was the only person who could define my narrative as being overweight … [and] that it wasn’t the entirety of who I was, rather just one of the many facets that made me me,” Preval said. “But that wasn’t the reality that the trailer portrayed. It reinforced the narrative of overweight people only being able to recognize their worth if and when they lost weight.”
She believes that Gussis Should’ve taken into account how the storyline played into steretoypes of overweight people — especially since the writer experienced it herself.
For many, the show’s debut proved just as disappointing and detrimental as the trailer.
Stern junior Isabel Potter was just as disheartened after watching the show as she was after initially seeing advertisements on social media. Beginning with a hesitant light dosage of viewing — the first episode and a half — she found the show to be an overall damaging flop.
“The overall narrative of the show seems to be [that] being skinny just fixes everything and that is such an outdated idea,” Potter said. “Overall it’s just not sending any positive messages to anybody.”
Steinhardt junior Gabrielle Henoch also gave the show a chance because she found the concept funny, but quickly uncovered pervasive problems.
“It made it seem like you can not live a happy life if you are fat,” Henoch said. “I kept watching the show because while it was slightly offensive, it was very entertaining.”
Attempting to finish the first episode could either leave you distressed or laughing. Either way, try to form your own opinion as you watch. If Gussis’ goal was to catch our attention — she definitely succeeded at that.
A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 26 print edition. Email Tianne Johnson at [email protected].