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Why we can't pass judgement on Netflix's 'Insatiable' before it airs


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When the trailer for Netflix's new show Insatiable dropped last week, critics immediately accused the show of fat shaming.

The dictionary offers two definitions of the word insatiable. 

Firstly it can describe a person who has an insatiable appetite or desire for something, while the second definition is of an appetite or desire which is impossible to satisfy.

Weight Loss

That's exactly how some people feel about today's intolerance towards any sort of phobic and 'ist' behavior, claiming that those who talk out against fat shaming, among other things, are essentially obsessed. 

However, in reality, it's called being diligent and conscientious of other people, recognising when something can be harmful or problematic in the long run.

This past week, Netflix unveiled the first trailer for its new "dark, twisted revenge comedy" titled Insatiable, which will be getting a 13-episode series.

The show, which stars The Suite Life on Deck actress Debby Ryan, swiftly got rebuked on Twitter as users described the 90-second preview as "fatphobic" and "toxic".

There have even been articles comparing it to the 2001 drama fantasy Shallow Hal and Friends' whole 'fat Monica' trope.

In the promo, we meet protagonist Patty, an apparently tormented, sad, large teenager (Debby Ryan donning a fat suit) who has her jaw wired shut following an uncalled for punch in a parking lot, resulting in her being unable to eat properly and thus loses weight.

For those who have dealt with eating disorders and the urge to do terrifying things to yourself in order to lose weight, watching this casually played for entertainment can be incredibly damaging.

Then, on her return to school, everybody suddenly finds her 'hot' and wants to be friends with her.

However, instead of returning their friendship Patty plans to seek revenge by targetting those who teased her noting "Having my jaw wired shut lost me more than just my summer vacation...Now, I could be the former fatty who turned into a brain. Or an athlete. Or a princess. No, I'd rather have revenge."

There is a clear implication that the 'fatty' can't be anything other than fat.

Here the criticism of the show is understandable as, based on the trailer alone, it equates thinness and being deemed as attractive through the eyes of others to self-worth, happiness and popularity, as well as peddling dangerous stereotypes.

It is important to remember that supposed jokes at the expense of an oppressed and/or marginalised group aren't actually jokes, but a clear expression of oppressive power.

Like the well-known phrase goes, "free speech isn't free if someone else has to pay for it".

Furthermore, by marketing its latest original series as a classic high school revenge story, Insatiable advertises the toxic narrative that people need to be thin to be happy. 

Last year, Netflix attracted controversy for the drama 13 Reasons Why, which some critics said romanticised youth suicide. 

Now, the streaming giant finds itself in a similarly uncomfortable position over another series that mines the social pressures of teenage life, even though no one has even seen it yet.

If Netflix is watching the wildfire as it flames, I sincerely hope the trailer is simply a clever tactic to generate views and discussions, rather than a true indication of the full series.

Personally, I love revenge narratives. I'm all for the underdog finally getting their own, and a revenge story usually involves torment turned into transformation.

This show, in order to redeem itself, must give Patty a captivating, persuasive and absorbing motive to seek revenge and a convincing mechanism in which to do it. 

As it stands at the minute though, people aren't convinced with a petition being launched, gaining over 150,000 signatures of its 200,000 goal so far.

The petition stresses the significance of promoting ideas of extreme dieting as a way to gain power and agency to a teenage audience, arguing that “the damage control of releasing this series will be far worse, insidious and sinister for teenage girls than it will be damaging for Netflix in their loss of profit”.

"We still have time to stop this series from being released," wrote the petition's author, Florence Given, "and stop a devastation of self-doubt in the minds of young girls who will think that to be happy and be worthy they need to lose weight."

However, as I mentioned earlier, I hope Netflix doesn't cancel Insatiable, but instead use it as an opportunity to increase representation of "fat" people in life, whether it be in front or behind the camera.

There is a real chance here to show the ugly parts of the process of getting to self-love and acceptance.

Debby Ryan obviously isn't fat but here she is welcomed into spaces where fat actors are typically excluded and with this huge amount of attention, its hard to say what will actually come from all this.

Will the show prove to be another example of fat-shaming or will it take its chance to carry an important message about fatphobia and typical beauty standards?  

Only time will tell, given that anyone actually gives Insatiable a chance, but I do hope its the latter.

Insatiable premiers on Netflix on 10th August 2018.

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