Insatiable is a new Netflix series starring Debby Ryan as an overweight teenager who takes revenge on bullies after losing weight.
Yes people. It’s 2018 and we’re still commissioning narratives that perpetuate eating disorders, by telling young women that if you don’t eat for an entire summer – you can be skinny, desirable and worthy of love and affection.
But it’s just “dark comedy” right?
‘Fatty Patty’ played by Debby Ryan in an actual fat suit (didn’t we leave this in the 90s with Monica in Friends?) is captured as a fat, boring, un-cool loser with no friends. She spends the summer hospitalised with her jaw wired shut, because a homeless man tried to snatch her candy bar and she wouldn’t let him have it. Because, fat. She returns to school in fall as the ‘hot’ girl, miraculously discovers make-up and is objectified by men in the corridors. What does Patty do with new-found thin and ‘hotness’ privileges? She goes on a mission to exact her revenge of course! Setting men on fire with alcohol and punching women in the face. Wow. What an empowered, cute-but-psycho lady you can be when you don’t eat.
Lauren Gussis (the writer of this show) says it is entirely inspired by her struggles with an eating disorder and isolation of her friends in high school. It is for that exact reason that I find the show even more disappointing. As a survivor of an eating disorder, I am shocked she didn’t realise how detrimental this narrative can be to young women, having experienced this herself. We learned from Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette on Netflix, that when you make your trauma the butt of the joke, you don’t just offend yourself. You offend your entire community and perpetuate the very ideals that still exist against these identities. You hurt the people who haven’t overcome these struggles far enough to laugh yet. You hurt the women who still face fatphobia, you hurt the women who still have eating disorders, and create them in the minds of women who don’t have them yet. Because these ideas you make fun of publicly to heal yourself still exist in society and hurt these people every single day. The impact your actions have is far more important than intention, no matter how good it is. When thousands of people are calling for this to be taken down, expressing that the trailer alone has triggered their eating disorder - we need an apology, not excuses.
If there was a barrel of chemicals that we all knew would explode in two weeks and cause diseases, we would destroy that barrel. It’s only because eating disorders are mental and not visible illnesses that people refuse to acknowledge the media as a crucial source for these issues, and how women have valued themselves against these ideals for decades. Embedded in the petition I created just four days ago (which at the time of writing has 109,000 signatures) are open letters from the mothers of children with eating disorders, doctors and dieticians, begging that this show be taken down because they know how this will affect their patients.
This series will trigger eating disorders. We need to stop accepting these narratives, and start challenging them.