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Why Insatiable Is So Problematic For Women

Why Insatiable Is So Problematic For Women

Even before it aired Netflix’s show Insatiable had to face the wrath of the Internet. After the trailer dropped people were immediately put off by the vibe of the show, and the premise is even worse. It’s stunningly tone-deaf attempt to create an edgy comedy and it fails on all fronts. The show follows a teen girl named Patty Bladell. At the beginning of the show, she is an overweight teen that is bullied constantly about her weight. She gets into a fight and her jaw is wired shut for a few months, during which time she can only have a liquid diet. Then she amazingly loses all the excess weight and shows up at school the next year looking “hot”. She decides to get revenge on those who bullied her by entering beauty pageants, presumably to prove that she is now indeed beautiful so now she has worth.

The show is so wrong, on so many levels, that it’s kind of shocking Netflix even went ahead with their plans to release it. Before the show aired more than 100,000 fans signed a petition to Netflix asking them to scrap the show.  Bafflingly Netflix went ahead with the show and actually renewed it for a second season recently despite the fact that viewers and critics alike hate it.

But Insatiable is more than just a terrible show. There are a lot of terrible shows on TV at any given time. And it’s not even that it’s a terrible teen show, there are a lot of those too. Just Google the reboot of Heathers if you want to see a spectacularly bad teen show. But don’t actually watch it because it’s really bad. The reason that Insatiable is so problematic for women is that it reinforces so many tired old stereotypes and relies on so many tired tropes trying desperately to be relevant, edgy, or even just funny. It’s just a mess.

The show’s poor writing reinforces the stereotypes that all overweight women are only overweight because they overeat and if they would just control what they eat they would lose weight. When in reality there are many different medical conditions, genetic conditions, and other reasons why women gain weight and have trouble losing weight. The show also reinforces the idea that overweight women don’t deserve to have love, friendship or success but that if they would just drop a few pounds their lives would be magically transformed and they will have all those things. And just good measure it throws in some homophobic and racist stereotypes and tropes as well as misogynistic ones. It’s a cornucopia of wrong from start to finish. And the voiceover narrations, which are meant to give the show depth and denouement like the voiceovers in the classic The Wonder Years TV show just end up sounding forced and like a desperate attempt to mitigate the terribleness of the show’s character development.

It’s hard to believe with the stellar programming for women that is out on streaming services right now like Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale that Netflix thought this show was relevant or a good idea. And it’s even more shocking that they renewed it for a second season. Supporters of the show say that while it’s clear the show missed the intended mark of being satire it’s not meant to be an indictment of culture but just a feel-good underdog finds success show. But the show’s potential for damage by reinforcing outdated and dangerous stereotypes and tropes about overweight women is strong, and that’s highly problematic. Netflix is pouring a lot of money into research and development of new scripted shows and the platform wants to double down on original content but if Insatiable is the best they can do the platform is going to have a hard time competing with Hulu and Amazon which are pushing the boundaries of TV and highlighting strong female protagonists and shows with diverse casts and complex character writing. So the next time you’re in the mood for a good weekend TV binge skip Netflix and this complete failure of a show and hit up Hulu or Amazon to watch The Handmaid’s Tale, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, or another show that doesn’t once again relate overweight women to obscurity as the punchline of fat jokes and cliched tropes.


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