Once upon a time I chimed in on a movement calling for a ban on the then-upcoming Netflix series Insatiable. I said, basically, I didn’t see a reason to ban the show for fat-shaming because, well, it wasn’t out yet and who could tell?
I’ve watched both seasons now, and I still wouldn’t get behind a ban. How brave is that of me? Well, Insatiable did not enjoy much popularity (more on this later), and it is no longer being produced. So, not at all brave. But, anyway.
It is quite an achievement to create a television show, with an ensemble cast, that leaves the audience unable to side with, or even feel sympathy for, a single character. So, props to the writers of Insatiable, I guess. The only exception I found was Noonie (played by Kimmy Shields), and they turned her into a lesbian cliché near the end of the first season. C’est la vie, I suppose.
Every main character in the show is morally abhorrent, bouncing from one dreadful act to the next, with post hoc introspection often becoming a vehicle for the next abhorrent act, rather than any form of cathartic self-analysis.
Look, I get it. This is dark comedy, and in this genre moral failings should be anticipated; however, an audience needs some reason to keep watching. If this is not the main character, then it should be the people she treats badly; but they are all just as horrible as she is, and none of them are engaging.
Patty Bladell (played by Debbie Ryan) is supposed to have an issue with weight, but the issue doesn’t really show up until the second season, where it suddenly becomes the writers’ obsession. “Oh, shit,” they must have thought, “we’ve hit every hot-button teen social topic except for eating disorders, in a TV show about a teenager supposedly suffering from an eating disorder, or something. Fuck you!” Which is too bad, since body-issues are a real problem among teens, who deserve some intelligent TV around this issue.
Insatiable isn’t so much about body-shaming, or eating disorders, as it is about being superficial and trite concerning important issues in teenagers’ lives. Trying to turn an eating disorder into a joke is just not funny. From the hyperbole of how Patty is fat-shamed in the flashbacks, to her swapping boys for food in the present, to the apparent lack of self-awareness regarding the damage contests around physical appearance can have on kids, Insatiable misses just about every mark. It goes trite when it should go dark, taking the laugh out of the comedy and the sting out of the darkness.
One notable exception comes at the end of season one, episode ten, when Patty closes the episode eating an entire cake by herself, while whimpering. As the scene goes black to the credits, we can still hear her whimpering and stuffing her face, for far longer than is comfortable. Of course, this return to her original eating disorder is hand-waved away by some physical exercise in the next season, thus losing any gravitas the writers might have earned from the scene.
One last complaint: no one loses seventy pounds in three months. That’s about three quarters of a pound a day. According to doctors, total starvation will shed roughly four pounds a week, if you continue to use up calories through daily activity (that means, keep active and no “liquid” diet). So, being trapped in the woods with nothing to eat for three months, while being hunted by bears and wolves, could drop your weight by up to fifty pounds. Of course, a good chunk of that loss would be muscle, not fat (science stuff here), and you’d come out of the woods looking like total shit, which Patty certainly does not.
Because, you know, people who binge eat are only suppressing their insatiable desire to be serial killers. At this point I’ll take a cue from the writers of the series and say, “watch it, or don’t. Fuck you! Teen angst, or something!”