The 2018 Netflix original series Insatiable has a whopping 13% on Rotten Tomatoes, a 6.6/10 on IMdB, and a change.org petition which has 236,823 signatures to get it cancelled. Its trailer tells the viewer that it is a dramatic story of revenge. Its main character, the former “Fatty Patty” loses 60 pounds on a liquid diet and seeks vengeance upon her peers who bullied her because of her weight. I watched episode one. The rising action of the shows plot lends me to not want to give it any more views than it already has. I do not have confidence that viewing anymore of this show would change my opinion and the opinion of thousands of others on the show’s failed intentions.
The director of Insatiable, Alyssa Milano, writes on Twitter:
So, Insatiable was intended to satirize society’s contemporary view on beauty standards. But the way its intention pans out on screen is all too realistic to be effective satire. There are many themes of beauty equaling success and power. In short, all of the jokes are subtle jabs at the weight, eating habits, and looks of characters. Unfortunately, this theme is all too prevalent in society today.
A good satirical commentary on today’s beauty standards would be to make every person in the fictional town hyper-obsessed with how they look, and how they look would be society’s standard of attractive. The whole town would be so focused on conforming to this standard that it makes society’s concept of beauty seem absurd. Of course, that’s not what the show is about, but it would help to add to the believability of its satire. Instead, its subplots and underlying themes, meant to be seen as ridiculous, come across as a microcosm for our literal reality. Becoming society’s mirror is not outragous enough to be an effective commentary. The show just reinforces the wildly unrealistic societal stereotypes, the beauty standards in which women are expected to be.
“Point being, fat characters have inherent qualities in media before the viewer can even know anything about them.”
For example, in episode one Patty offers to assist Bob Armstrong’s family (even their names are stereotypical!) in selling chocolate bars. She follows up her offer with holding her right hand in the air, saying, “I won’t eat them, I swear!”
Patty’s proclamation is attempting to satirize fatphobia. It is not uncommon for fat people in media to be portrayed as lazy, sluggish, or the butt of the joke. We, as a society, have normalized fat people being only supporting actors, they are rarely apart of the main cast. I think about Thor from Hannah Montana. Though the way the school mocked him was not because of his weight, he was one of the only fat characters to ever appear on the show and his character was developed as his school’s butt of the joke. Though it ended in a life lesson for its viewers to not bully people for where they come from, it is easy to assume that being fat attributed to the initial mocking of his character, and thus his casting.
Point being, fat characters have inherent qualities in media before the viewer can even know anything about them. Patty’s comment in this scene reinforces that notion. That is what does not work about this attempt at satire, it is too realistic, too close to what an actual fatphobe would think or say. It is evident in media and society already, so creating yet another example of a fatphobia in media is ineffective at delivering director Alyssa Milano’s message, “addressing the damage that occurs from fat shaming”. Ironic.
“I won’t eat them, I swear!” This quote could’ve taken back the insults and threw it in the faces of fatphobe’s everywhere, but Insatiable’s demise is its lack of absurdism in its satire. Satire does not translate if its setting a realistic example to its viewers, and that is what this attempt at a joke and many others in this episode are falling victim to.
What Insatiable could have done was exaggerate its main satirical goal in a way that does not make fat people seem full of rage over being bullied because of their bodies.Then its main satirical goal would, to show the damage of fat shaming on fat people, would have translated. The “comedic” element of the show is Patty’s exaggerated need for revenge. If the exaggeration was placed on the absurdness of the fat shaming in the show, rather than on her need for revenge, the satire would have translated perfectly, thus the revenge plot would be justified and comical.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia should be under the dictionary.com definition of satire. Creator, executive producer and actor Rob McElhenny says, “I had never seen a show in which the characters, or the actors specifically tried to look worse as the show progressed. And I thought that if there was ever gonna be a show in which that would make sense then this would be it.” In its 7th season, McElhenney gained 60 pounds so his character, Mac, could satirize how in television, actors always get more attractive the longer they are on air, which pushes a false narrative on society. It is unrealistic for media to portray adult actors becoming significantly more attractive as they age because it is completely normal and should be expected that people look worse as they age into and out of adulthood. That is just the basic science of aging.
Did he have to gain weight in order to turn undesirable? He could have just shaved his head or wore prosthetics. In order for the satire to translate from behind the screen to in front of the screen, his new look needed to be more dramatic than a mere alteration signifying aging because that is the literal reality of human aging, which show in forms such as balding or wrinkles. In gaining weight, he is not only negating the narrative of the unrealistic standards of aging in media, but the way his fat self is portrayed is yet another commentary on societal beauty standards, one that Insatiable did not come close to portraying.
In It’s Always Sunny’s third episode of season seven, “Frank’s Little Beauties”, the gang orders pizza for lunch. Mac is aggressively shoving pizza down his throat, heavily breathing. He is exaggerating the aspect of fatphobia in which fatphobe’s assume fat people stuff their faces relentlessly. By over exaggerating and becoming an extreme version of the stereotypical fat person in media, McElhenney is emphasizing the absurdism in fatphobic commentary. Insatiable had the opportunity to do the same, but decided to become a trite revenge thriller all for an unjustified reason.
Claiming “satire” does not automatically affirm a show’s success as valid social commentary. Director Milano thought a mere tweet cleared up the fact that thousands of people were unhappy with the toxic commentary on body positivity in Insatiable. Its weak attempt at satire falls flat as it reinforces fatphobia and gives a contemporary voice to the oppressors of society. – MS
Maria Suevo is a sophomore at Emerson College who majors in television production. She produces content for the Emerson TV channel, and spends most of her time on campus. Some special talents Maria has are writing comedy, performing comedy, being funny, she is funny, making people laugh, as well as entertaining Venmo memos. That being said, her Venmo is @msuevo.