by Baylie Clevenger
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the opinion of Byte or Byte’s editorial board.
With the body positivity movement on the rise, it is no surprise that the new Netflix original titled Insatiable has received heavy amounts of backlash.
The show centers around a young girl named Patty, played by former Disney star Debby Ryan, who is overweight. She is constantly bullied for the way she looks and seems to be miserable because of it.
In the first episode of the show, she is harassed by a homeless man about her weight. After he harasses her, she punches him in the face and he punches her back, breaking her jaw. This causes her to have her jaw wired shut for three months. During these three months she is on a liquid-only diet and loses 70 pounds.
After her significant weight loss, Patty becomes a different person entirely. Even though she seems more confident now, there are many aspects of the show which are stereotypical and even dangerous for some viewers.
I decided to examine these aspects of the show and talk about how they interfere with the idea and movement of body positivity.
1. The idea of an extreme diet and rapid weight loss
The way Patty loses weight is extreme. Even though she does not do this out of her own choice, this is sending the message to viewers that not eating actual food is the way to be pretty and confident.
Image from Insider
This interferes with body positivity messages because it says to viewers that extreme dieting and weight loss are the way to go. After all, Patty did lose 70 pounds in 3 months, which is more than is typically recommended by healthcare experts. Mayo Clinic recommends that losing one to two pounds per week is typically considered a healthy rate for weight loss.
Patty was losing weight at about three times that rate. She lost about six pounds per week rather than the recommended one or two. The Mayo Clinic article cited above states that rapid weight loss of that sort can be harmful to health and that to maintain a healthy weight, a more moderate rate of weight loss is required.
So, even though Patty cannot help it that she had her jaw broken, this is still going to tell viewers that if they crash diet, like Patty did, they can rapidly and conveniently lose weight.
2. The idea that being overweight always means being miserable
Before Patty loses weight, there are a lot of opportunities that she did not and would not have. For example, in the first episode she expresses that her classmates were out dating having fun while she was at home watching television and eating food.
“I spent my entire adolescence hating my body, the target of bullying and cruel jokes. So, while my classmates were out losing their virginity, I was at home, stuffing another hole, binging my brains out and watching every Drew Barrymore movie ever made. With Nonnie, my only friend.”
So not only does she have just one friend, she describes her experience as lonely and miserable.
Image from Junkee
The show is saying that everyone who is overweight is miserable and in a state of before-ness. Having had firsthand experience with body image issues, it is safe to say that looking and feeling like a before photo on an Instagram fitness page is draining.
After Patty loses weight, there are many things that start happening in her life. There are boys interested in her and she starts participating in, and even winning, pageants. At one point in the show Bob, her pageant coach, even admits that had she still been overweight when they met he would not have tried to coach her in pageantry. All of the things she mentions not having before come true for her now that she is thin.
The idea of body positivity is to encourage anyone of any body type to love themselves and recognize that they deserve to feel happy and have a fulfilling life just as much as anyone else. When media constantly portrays overweight people as miserable and stagnant it reinforces the message that all overweight people are perpetually unfinished, still in a “before” state.
This leads to feelings of never being complete, never being fulfilled and never being okay with how one looks.
3. Beauty is the epitome of worth
Once Patty is seen as beautiful, she is seen as worthy of things like boyfriends and winning beauty pageants.
Even though neither of these define self worth, that is still how they are treated in the show. Patty being stereotypically beautiful gets her more attention and satisfaction. She even says that winning pageants makes her feel like a winner and she describes getting Brick, her crush that rejected her before she was thin, to like her as a feeling of winning.
Once she starts receiving this attention from boys as well as in pageants, she describes being skinny as magic. The title for episode two is actually called “Skinny is Magic.” This gives the idea that being skinny is both the epitome of attractiveness and happiness.
Overall, this show is not a positive contribution to the world of body positivity.
While the creator of the show, Lauren Gussis, spoke out about the backlash from the show saying that it was centered around her own experience with fat shaming, it is still taken on in an entirely wrong way.
Leading actress, Debby Ryan, also spoke out on her Instagram about the backlash saying that the show was simply using satire to open up a discussion about deep dark topics that are usually ignored.
— debbyryan (@DebbyRyan) July 21, 2018
Regardless of Gussis’ past with body shaming, there is no reason for her to be sending these harmful messages to viewers. The message is dangerous and overall unnecessary.
At the end of the day body positivity is about loving oneself and accepting oneself even if that does not mean fitting into what society deems as attractive and acceptable.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Twitter
Baylie is a Journalism major minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies. She writes for The Odyssey as well as Byte. Baylie has two dogs and owns too much lipstick.