by Frankie Fanelli
Before Netflix’s original series Insatiable even premiered, it was met with copious amounts of backlash. Petitions were circling online calling for its cancellation before it was even released as the trailers focused on Patty, a high school girl that was incessantly bullied for being overweight before losing 70 pounds in three months after having her jaw wired shut and immediately becoming a bombshell. Prospective viewers insisted that the show oversimplified what it means to lose that much weight that quickly, and what it’s like to live as an overweight individual in a world that covets thinness. Despite the outspoken public, the show’s cast as well as the creator Lauren Gills insists that the show was meant to empower rather than shame and that the message was much deeper than viewers were led to believe. However, after watching the show I can’t say that that’s necessarily true… but I can say that the show is definitely weirder than advertised.
The main plot line of the show revolves around Patty as she is recruited by Bob Armstrong, a lawyer who moonlights as a pageant coach before his reputation is tarnished by a bitter client who loses a pageant and decides to accuse him of sexually assaulting her as revenge. That’s right: the show practically makes jokes out of sexual harassment and statutory rape on multiple occasions and with multiple scenarios (spoiler alert: Patty later tries to seduce and have sex with a homeless man that assaults her in the first episode in order to get her revenge.) In fact, Bob first meets Patty when he is hired to defend her for punching said homeless man in the face, who punches her back and is the reason she had to have her jaw wired shut in the first place, and decides that she’ll be his protege and ticket back into the pageant world. And while this is an admittedly intriguing plot setup, the main pageant storyline sometimes gets lost in the unexpected twists and turns of the sub-plots and drowned out by a cast of characters who seem to serve no purpose but cause drama and appear to change personality based on what the writers want Patty to be faced with in any particular episode.
Firstly, the show makes barely any effort to dive into the complexity of its main character, and we barely spend any time with Patty, or, as her uninspired classmates call her, “Fatty Patty,” before she makes her big bombshell debut about 3 minutes into the pilot episode. Despite the fact that this (albeit limited) character backstory opens the door for plenty of character development and empowering moments, Patty instead embodies a slew of fat stereotypes and seems to 180 in the complete opposite direction, even going so far as to state multiple times throughout the show that “skinny is magic.”
Another poorly handled situation within Insatiable’s wonky plot is Nonnie, Patty’s best friend. Throughout the show, it is heavily, and I mean HEAVILY, hinted that Nonnie is in love with Patty even before her weight loss. She is the one person that has been there for her through her pre-weight loss bullying incidents and her post-weight loss borderline-psychotic episodes. But despite this, Insatiable doesn’t hold back from dropping a flurry of homophobic lines into its script and when it later tries to treat the process of coming out respectfully it just comes across as disingenuous.
About midway through the first season, the show attempts to turn around its tone and tries to approach the topics it decided to deal with with considerable amounts more sensitivity, allowing Nonnie to finally address her repressed sexuality and for Patty to realize that she “wasn’t a loser when she was fat and isn’t a loser now.” And while the sentiment is definitely there, it honestly all comes across as too little too late.
So while I believe that Insatiable may have had good intentions to begin with, it ultimately made enough bad narrative choices and poorly timed jokes to prove those who started cancellation petitions before the show even aired mostly correct. That being said, the show definitely falls into the category of black comedy and those who are a fan of the genre and are willing to overlook its (read: numerous) flaws will likely enjoy it for its sheer unpredictable storyline and wild entertainment value.