By now, pretty much everyone has heard of Netflix’s latest foray into teen melodrama, “Insatiable.” The show follows an overweight high school girl named Patty Bladell who decides to seek revenge on her bullies after she loses weight and becomes “hot.” Although I was excited for the show’s release, the same could not be said for many others.
The trailer evoked strong reactions in loads of people, who claimed that the show encouraged fat shaming and had the potential to lead its impressionable adolescent audience toward unhealthy habits, like bulimia. I was one of few who decided to give the show a chance instead of judging on first appearances. In fact, I had such high hopes for the series’ potential that I wrote an article about it.
Now that the Netflix dramedy has premiered, I can confirm that it is a goddamn trainwreck. Boy oh boy did “Insatiable” disappoint me. What I expected to be a fun, high school show about a girl seeking vengeance turned out to be the tale of a terrible protagonist surrounded by equally terrible supporting characters entering one pageant after another.
My dislike of “Insatiable” has less to do with fat shaming and more to do with the fact that it is simply a bad show. In order for a series with a revenge plotline to work, one would expect that the person seeking revenge would be likeable to the viewer. This way, audiences would be more invested in the story because they’d like to see said character succeed, or at least come out of the situation a better person.
No such luck with this show. Being a fat girl myself, I expected Patty to be even more likable to me, as I might have been able to relate to some of her issues. However, I’m pleased to say that I have nothing in common with Patty. She’s a horrible and selfish person.
Throughout the season, she consistently does things to wound those closest to her, often with very little excuse or provocation. She lashes out repeatedly, wreaking havoc in the lives of individuals she claims to care about.
In some ways, “Insatiable” tries to make Patty a self-aware antihero of sorts. She frequently points out when she does something wrong, even claiming to have some sort of evil spirit within her at one point which causes her to do bad things. She attempts to make amends, but her method of making the protagonist sympathetic is not effective.
Yes, everyone (including Patty) makes mistakes. However, most individuals would try to correct their past behavior after seeing that it yielded negative results for others — aka learning from their mistakes. Patty never learns and continuous to act like a bad person, hoping that a simple apology will redeem her. This gets old very quickly, and eventually, I just stopped feeling bad for her.
Seeing that the protagonist of the Netflix series is unlikeable, I looked to the supporting characters to find someone else to love in the show. Sadly, most of them are either just as bad as Patty is or they’re very bland and forgettable.
Bob Armstrong is Patty’s pageant coach, helping her along her path of pageant victory and, thusly, revenge. (As I watched the show, I really couldn’t see the connection between Patty winning the pageants and getting revenge on her bullies, but I digress.) Bob is a bit more likeable than Patty and probably the most memorable character of this show.
Still, the lawyer turned pageant coach truly lacks distinction. He is a stereotypically flamboyant man who enjoys pageants and loves his wife. The big reveal involving his sexuality was really no surprise at all, but I’ll say that his confused feelings made for interesting viewing. Overall, he develops very little over the season’s 12 episodes.
All of the other characters are tropes that viewers have all seen before, from the underappreciated best friend, to the bitchy pageant girls to the overzealous pageant mothers. There is only one character that actually grows as the season goes on, and that would be Patty’s mother. At the start of “Insatiable” she is a bad parent and could hardly care for Patty, but by the end, she comes to her senses and seems to genuinely try to treat her daughter with more care.
One of the glaring issues with “Insatiable” is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. One minute, it’s a satirical comedy and the next, it’s feminist/body positive commentary. The tonal shifts are jarring and not believable at all.
For example, the show mostly skims over Patty’s body issues and eating disorders, usually mentioning it in passing or as the butt of a joke. At one point in the series, Patty hits an emotional breaking point and proceeds to messily binge an entire cake, stuffing it into her mouth by the handful.
The show lingers on this scene for an uncomfortable amount of time, forcing the audience to watch Patty cry and binge cake before it cuts to black and the credits roll, the sounds of Patty’s tears and chewing still being played in the background. Clearly, this scene was meant to be meaningful and deep. It was supposed to tug at the viewers’ heartstrings. It failed.
For one thing, by this point, the viewer no longer feels bad for Patty. Second, the show seemed to have decided that it wasn’t going to be a serious commentary on eating disorders in the numerous episodes before this scene occurred, so Patty’s breakdown just felt out of place. Obviously, it is possible to combine humor with serious topics in a show, but “Insatiable” never finds a perfect balance.
The show treats body positivity in a similar manner to how it treats eating disorders: as a gimmick. A plus size character is introduced, and she turns out to be a contestant in the pageant. She even goes as far as saying that she is doing it to prove that all body types can be sexy. In this way, “Insatiable” is attempting to be a champion for body positivity, contrary to post-trailer assumptions.
However, this move comes across as cheap in the series. Although “Insatiable” is clearly trying to be “woke” and play into the current trends of acceptance of different types of people, body positivity does not feel genuine in a show that discusses eating disorders as a joke in one episode and treats a fat girl as less-than-human in the next.
Is “Insatiable” entertaining? At times, yes. It even made me chuckle once or twice. But none of its meager high points were enough to make it a good show. The bare bones of it seemed promising, but in the end, it turned out to be a series with no characters to root for that didn’t know whether or not it wanted to be taken seriously. I don’t foresee myself tuning in for a second season.