Netflix’s Buzzy New Show Ignites Fiery Twitter Debate About Fat-Shaming
Netflix is having a not-so-chill Friday.
The streaming service released the trailer for Insatiable, a new dark comedy starring Disney Channel alum Debby Ryan (remember her from the Suite Life of Zack and Cody spin-off, Suite Life on Deck, as well as her own show, Jessie?) which is set to premiere on Aug. 10.
The series follows Patty (Ryan), who is relentlessly bullied at school for her weight. (It is of note that Ryan wears a fat suit while portraying the "before" version of Patty, who is nicknamed "Fatty Patty" by cruel classmates.) Following an assault, which results in having her jaw wired shut, Patty undergoes a drastic weight loss, and suddenly finds herself accepted, even praised, for her appearance, eventually joining the pageant circuit as a client of an unconventional coach. Patty then makes it her mission to seek revenge on her classmates who had previously wronged her, and things get dark from there.
Watch the trailer below:
The Twitter reactions to the trailer were swift, with many writing that the premise of a girl losing weight and suddenly finding acceptance is a trite and counterproductive narrative. The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil tweeted, "This is still telling kids to lose weight to 'win.' The fat shaming is inherent and pretty upsetting."
Realize Your Beauty, a nonprofit dedicated to improving women's body image through theater arts, even launched a change.org petition requesting that Netflix remove the show altogether. "Though the show claims to be a satire and that the whole point is to draw attention to the way Patty was treated, we don’t buy it," reads the petition, which has 178 signatures as of Friday evening. "We don’t buy that fat suits are funny. We don’t buy that your life doesn’t start until you lose weight. We don’t buy that you can’t seek “revenge” or confidence until you’re no longer Fatty Patty."
Lauren Gussis, who wrote and executive produced the show, told Teen Vogue that the show—based on the true story of a disgraced lawyer turned beauty-pageant coach—is also loosely related to her own experiences as a bullied teenager. "I really felt like it was important to look at [bullying] head on and talk about it," she said. "And what are young women and, frankly, young men 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."
Gussis and Ryan even seemed to anticipate the backlash. "There is so much more to [the show,] and definitely trust that we're doing it and it's there," Ryan said. "I think if you do take a second to get to know it, I think you'll realize that Patty's complicated, these people are complicated."
Added Gussis, "This is my expression of my own process. My own pain. And so I would never mock myself in a way that wasn't loving ... It's my way of sharing my own experience with the world. So it's not coming from an outsider's perspective pointing a finger, it's from inside."
Alyssa Milano, who plays the wife of the pageant coach, wrote in defense of the series. "We are not shaming Patty. We are addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from fat shaming."
Others still point out that you can't judge a show by its trailer, and given both Milano and Ryan have a track record of standing up for women's rights, perhaps there's more than meets the eye. Guess we'll find out come Aug. 10.