On Thursday, Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming series Insatiable. In the show, Debby Ryan plays a high schooler who undergoes dramatic weight loss due to having her jaw wired shut after being punched in the face by a bully, then sets out on a journey to get revenge against everyone who bullied her when she was overweight.
Shortly after the trailer dropped, many people took issue with what they saw as the show's "toxicity," criticizing Insatiable's seemingly playing into the tired, dangerous, and extremely offensive trope of a woman being "desirable" only after losing weight — not to mention the fact that the weight loss is illustrated by putting Ryan in a fat suit.
In fact, mere hours after the trailer's debut, an online petition was launched, calling for Netflix to cancel the show before its August 10 premiere. "For so long, the narrative has told women and young impressionable girls that in order to be popular, have friends, to be desirable for the male gaze, and to some extent be a worthy human…that we must be thin," the petition reads. "That is exactly what this series does. It perpetuates not only the toxicity of diet culture, but the objectification of women's bodies." The petition goes on to speculate that the show will spark eating disorders and cause "a devastation of self-doubt in the minds of young [viewers] who will think that to be happy and be worthy, they need to lose weight."
In the eight hours since the petition went live, it has already garnered more than 11,000 signatures. Florence Givens, the petition's author, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News, "[The show] makes fatness look like something a woman must 'overcome' and this is an incredibly toxic message to be drilling into the minds of young, impressionable women."
Additionally, countless others have taken to Twitter to express their disappointment and outrage over the show and its dangerously offensive portrayal of plus-size people as unattractive and objects of ridicule. Many echoed Givens's predictions that the show could cause many impressionable young viewers to not only devalue themselves based on weight and physical appearance but also to potentially turn to destructive behaviors, such as disordered eating.
Others suggested that, rather than depicting a teen who only finds social acceptance and increased self-worth after losing weight, Netflix should've centered the show on a young person who learns to love and value themselves without changing their outward appearance to fit into some ridiculous societal standard of "beauty."
give us a story line where a fat girl stays fat, learns to accept her body, fucks all societal standards of beauty, and fucking slaysss. Tired of the "fat girl loses weight and becomes hot" trope.
do something new.
— shay. (@fluffyskittles) July 19, 2018
CW: weight loss, fatmisia/fatphobia, eating disorders
Hi, hello, @netflix? FAT SUITS ARE NEVER OKAY.
Selling a weight loss revenge story to teens who are already at high risk for eating disorders is NOT OKAY.
This is gross and I’m mad as hell. https://t.co/Zd8cP7hHi1
— Amanda Elliott (@AmandaApparel) July 19, 2018
this is a good example of why i grew up insecure and thought i would never be loved because of my size. give us a story where the fat girl stays fat, struggles, but learns to accept her body and overcomes societal standards. #insatiable https://t.co/v9WchYgKVG
— lacey (@geamxs) July 19, 2018
Can we get a show where a fat character gets Revenge on everyone who’s shitty to them while still being fat, and is recognized as badass and funny and super hot, because that would be something actually fresh and cool and not the lukewarm watery oatmeal that is Insatiable
— 🌈Regent of Feelgood Reads✨ (@RoAnnaSylver) July 19, 2018
So this is a story about a girl who used to be fat and now she isn't, she can finally have revenge? I don't know. Maybe a story where she loves her fatness would have been better. Rather than her literally having her jaw wired shut so that she cannot eat to lose weight.
— MD – RETWEET MY PINNED TWEET (@manika0098) July 19, 2018
— The Mary Sue (@TheMarySue) July 19, 2018
What in the absolute fuck is this. Honestly, did anyone who worked on this show talk to a fat person? Like ever? This pushes disordered eating AND the fact that you have to lose weight to be "better". Shame on everyone who was involved with this project.
— Zina (@ZinaRightNow) July 19, 2018
WHY did she have to lose weight in order to gain agency and legitimacy in her desire to get revenge? If this was truly about taking down bullies what better way than by being yourself in defiance of their cruelty? You can be fat and get revenge, FYI
— Latisha (@TizzyLiz23) July 20, 2018
— mermaid queen 🧜🏼♀️✨ (@MerQueenJude) July 19, 2018
There r going to be so many young teenagers w/ no support watching this who will starve themselves, thinking that they deserve to be preyed on & isolated because of their weight because they dont look like everyone else! Promoting this ideal in 2018 is so dsgusting
— Loren 🤦🏻♀️ (@caffeinecosmo) July 20, 2018
Instead of hiring thin actresses to play fat characters in a fat suit how about we hire fat actresses 🤷♀️🤷♀️🤷♀️ and while we’re at it let’s not promote that the only way to be happy is through losing weight 🤷♀️ @insatiable_
— Lizzie Gruhl (@lizzie_gruhl) July 19, 2018
Ryan and Alyssa Milano, another of the show's stars, both responded to the criticism by highlighting a recent interview in which showrunner Lauren Gussis told Teen Vogue that Ryan's character is her "inner formerly bullied teenager."
"I really felt like it was important to look at [bullying] head on and talk about it," she told Teen Vogue. "And what young women and, frankly, young men are taught about appearance and how much appearance matters and whether it's OK to look different and it's OK to be different, and the feeling of ‘not enough’ which kind of leads through all of the characters…. every single character in t his show has a hole that they're trying to fill and they're insatiable for something whether it be validation or love, or money or power." That said, Gussis's words don't directly address the problematic central concept of the show that's leaving so many people unsettled: that a young woman is only seen as attractive and only has the power and confidence to chart her revenge against that damage after losing weight.
We are not shaming Patty. We are addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from fat shaming. I hope that clears it up. Also, this article does a good job of explaining it more: https://t.co/WoR8R7TjqR #Insatiable https://t.co/GFkDdsn1uh
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) July 19, 2018
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