The Gaucho Gazette

TV Show Review: Insatiable

Kevin Sittner and Violet Wang

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If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve likely seen various mentions of Netflix’s latest and perhaps, most regrettable original series Insatiable. Crude, offensive, and often transgressive, Insatiable has garnered intense backlash from critics for the apparent fat shaming and homophobic sentiments expressed throughout the series. The storyline, developed by Lauren Gussis, follows Debby Ryan’s television persona Patricia Bladell, formerly “Fatty Patty,” who after suffering a homeless man’s punch to the face, undergoes a jaw transplant that entails closure of her jaw over a period of months in addition to the maintenance of a liquid-based diet. After meeting Bob, litigator turned pageant coach Bob, played by Dallas Roberts, Patty engages in a series of beauty pageants away from school and utilizes her newfound slim figure as a medium for revenge upon each and every individual who had ever wronged her. Over the course of the series, Patty’s repressed emotions overwhelmingly lead to a sense of an uncontrollable aggression that rears its head through the worst mediums possible, even attempted murder.

The recurring catchphrase, “skinny is magic”, a rhetorical staple uttered by Patty’s pageant coach, is one of many thematic elements that wrongfully reinforces bigoted perceptions of those struggling with eating disorders. Predicated upon the notions that one’s internal conflicts can be solved by thinning down and that the only viable weight loss method was essentially starvation, “Insatiable” misses the mark with respect to body acceptance, even though the series merely to detail Patty ’s. In the same sense, this Netflix original series employs Patty’s closest confidant Nonnie, a closeted lesbian with feelings for Patty played by Kimmy Shields, as somewhat of a comical element with her sexuality and insecurities are often made the punchline of jests. Even so, characters’ failure to recognize Nonnie’s sexuality indicate a lack of awareness and further contribute to the list of characters that come across as caricatures of the stereotypes attached to them. At the same time, “Insatiable” makes light of sexual harassment and assault allegations, whether in the form of false charges brought against Bob by a former pageantry student or his insincere manner of addressing such accusations. By failing to develop Nonnie as a dynamic character, Gussis misses out on an opportunity to explore the teenager’s repressed sexuality.

On a less controversial note, the inclusion of alternative mediums of dialogue, including text messages and video chats displayed directly in the frame offered a refreshing, but not excessive filter to the story. Such elements were occasionally hindered and made to feel cheap by the occasional unrealistic reaction or awkward text message. The true bright spot for the series, however, lies in frequent shifts between internal monologue and interpersonal dialogue, which not only offer diverse insight into the personalities of the protagonists, but allow for a greater focus on cinematography during moments of internal moments. Because transitions are often marked by a change in setting or method of characterization rather than a longer, logical break in words, conversations can appear at times superfluous and disjointed.

Unfortunately, “Insatiable” derives much of its appeal from crude and slapstick humor, not limited to injuries, clumsiness, sexual innuendos, and a wrongful desensitization of controversial topics such as sexual assault and obesity, prompting audiences to laugh out merely of discomfort. Equally as important are varying shock factors, whether Freudian slips or vengeful violence that instead of genuinely intriguing audience members, make looking away from the screen a difficult task. Without an evident message to be drawn from the series and without consideration for some of society’s most pressing issues, “Insatiable” is likely to leave viewers with a taste in their mouth that is far from sweet.

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TV Show Review: Insatiable