Debby Ryan-Netflix Trailer
While "Insatiable" is a step back in regard to body positivity, "Sierra Burgess is a Loser" is a step in the right direction. (Image via GeekTyrant)
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Debby Ryan-Netflix Trailer
While "Insatiable" is a step back in regard to body positivity, "Sierra Burgess is a Loser" is a step in the right direction. (Image via GeekTyrant)

Spoiler alert: It’s not ‘Insatiable.’

The trailer for the new Netflix series “Insatiable” was released a couple days ago, and it has faced overwhelming criticism for fat-shaming and perpetuating unhealthy ideas about beauty. The drama-comedy series is set to feature Debby Ryan, former star of Disney Channel’s “Jessie,” as an overweight high school girl named Patty. After struggling with incessant bullying, Patty loses weight to fit into the high school stereotype of beauty and seeks revenge on her classmates.

Let’s count the red flags. The trailer starts off with Patty walking up to her locker, which is graffitied with the words “Fatty Patty,” as the entire school laughs mockingly around her. Red Flag One: Ryan is playing Patty in a fat suit.

When the focus of a show is related to the body of the protagonist, the actress portraying this main character should have that body type. Having a thinner actress play an overweight character by wearing a fat suit adds to the fat-shaming the show is already depicting.

Over summer vacation Patty undergoes her body transformation, and she returns to school fitting perfectly into the shallow stereotype of “thin and beautiful.” The mood changes, and suddenly Patty is seen as attractive. Red Flag Two: This is essentially saying you have to do whatever it takes to be thin because being skinny is the only way to be pretty.

This is completely untrue, objectifies women and adds to the misguided view that only slim girls are beautiful. A girl should not have to change her physical appearance to be considered attractive. Everyone should celebrate their bodies for what it is and not feel pressured into embarking on drastic transformations that could damage their health.

Fast forward to the changed Patty now looking at high school through new lens. She thinks to herself, “Now, I could be the former fatty who turned into a brain. Or an athlete. Or a princess.” Excuse me? Red Flag Three: The show just implied that those who are overweight are only defined by their body.

In real life, brains, athletes and princesses come in various body types, and everyone should be empowered to pursue their talents no matter what they look like. Why tell people that someone should have to be thin to adopt characteristics and hobbies or join social circles?

Red Flag Four: Patty decides to embark on a complex revenge plot to wreak havoc on the lives of the classmates who once bullied her. This portion of the trailer shows an unhealthy reaction to life’s struggles. Patty is completely justified in having pent up anger targeted at her classmates who made her life hell; however, violence is not the answer.

Those involved in the creation of the show have spoken out in regards to the critical feedback, saying that they want to show that an unhealthy transformation can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms. The series is supposed to utilize dark humor to highlight the issues with society’s beauty standards in a satirical manner. Even with their justification, the glimpse of “Insatiable” that I’ve seen does not convince me that the drama-comedy is a good idea.

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Fat-shaming is unacceptable, especially on a platform that is viewed by high schoolers around the world. The media has an overwhelming effect on how adolescents view themselves, and it should spread positive and empowering messages, not perpetuate the superficial and untrue ones.

Netflix also recently released a trailer that could serve as redemption for the warped “Insatiable” trailer. This film is called “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” and it is definitely a movie I am planning to watch.

It stars Shannon Purser as Sierra Burgess, an intelligent and talented young woman who is afraid of showing an online boy her physical appearance because she does not fit the ideal beauty standards. The story follows Sierra as she navigates this struggle and finds the confidence to love herself for who she truly is.

Green Light One: The trailer begins by giving Sierra a personality, listing off traits such as “funny,” “kid-wonder” and “true artist.” She is a woman not defined by her physical appearance but rather by her personality and qualities people love about her. This also makes her story more realistic and therefore relatable; everyone has a multi-faceted personality that is more than the stereotypes society labels them with, which, in Sierra’s case is “loser.”

Let’s move forward a bit. Sierra begins flirting with a boy over the phone, but then realizes he thinks she is a girl named Veronica, one of the popular girls in her school. Green Light Two: Sierra confides in Veronica, and they help each other, hinting at the beginning of a friendship.

Not only does this teach viewers that physical appearance should have nothing to do with forging friendships, but it also tears down Veronica’s “evil cheerleader” stereotype, showing that people who come from her walk of life can be nice as well.

Green Light Three: Sierra’s relationship with the boy is rooted in their personalities connecting, not superficial looks. Even though forming a relationship over the phone is not an ideal situation, it does emphasize how someone can fall in love with another person’s inner beauty, rather than being influenced by the exterior. The movie really drives the point of “what is on the inside is what counts” home.

Green Light Four: The end of the trailer lands on a hopeful note, implying that Sierra finds herself in the process of navigating her boy struggles. This is important because the film does not center around making yourself fit society’s beauty ideals for the attention of a boy. It focuses on loving yourself for who you are. It becomes less and less about what others see her as and more about who she sees herself as.

“Sierra Burgess is a Loser” seems to be doing it right.

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Maya Ramani

University of Virginia

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