“Fatty Patty” — Shaming or Education?

Does the Netflix series “Insatiable” promote body shaming, or does it address the damage that body-shaming can do? The public almost did not have the opportunity to find out. More than 200,000 of them signed a Change.org petition, on the basis of a single publicity trailer, asking for the TV series to be cancelled before it ever made it to the air.

The story concerns a high-school student who used to be fat; got punched in the jaw; was unable to eat for several weeks; and lost enough weight to make her irresistible to boys. Rather than enjoy this blessing, she decides to devote her life to messing with those who messed with her.

The official literature calls it “a dark, twisted revenge comedy.” They say,

Patty is out for payback against anyone who has ever made her feel bad about herself. Bullies beware: payback’s a bitch, revenge is sweet, and if you cross Patty, you’ll be her next treat.

The defenders, not the critics, are the ones who claim that fat-shaming is “embedded in the DNA of the show.” Much of the content is said to be based on the life experience of the show’s creator, Lauren Gussis. The star, Debby Ryan (pictured, above), told fans that she would never be in a show that engaged in serious fat-shaming, because she had body-image issues in her own past. Co-star Alyssa Milano said the show is about “how we have all felt that we are not enough,” and confirmed that such matters are better discussed in the open.

The series has been called fat-phobic, triggering, regressive, cruel, poorly crafted, and an “utter disaster” — all by just one person, Rebecca Jennings of Vox.com. Other haters call it toxic, saying that it does not accurately represent the struggles faced by the obese, or the ways in which they are victimized, or provide a better understanding. One complaint is that it treats sexual harassment lightly, and that most of the episode themes have nothing to do with weight issues, while covering non-mainstream issues like polyamory.

Adding insult to injury

And then, there’s the fat suit, which some movie and TV viewers are already sick of and the rest ought to be, according to Jennings. We are okay with fat suits, she says, because the device gives us “the ability to crack jokes at a past character’s fatness with the knowledge that the present character is laughing now too.” But the contrast implies that fatness, “when constantly compared to the superior thinness, is grotesque and deserves to be laughed at.”

Most of all, the anti-“Insatiable” gang does not like the message that weight loss is the road to happiness. Slimming and happiness might coincide, but to assign a causational relationship is anathema to people of a certain mindset. As Jennings phrases it,

In short, fat characters are defined entirely by their fatness, and only get to become multidimensional once they lose the weight.

Ben Travers of IndieWire.com gives it a grade of D-, and calls it a disastrous hodgepodge, an absolute mess, and the worst Netflix original series yet. He has a particular problem with Episode 11, titled “Winners Win. Period.” One of his points is that health per se is ignored, “with no mention that people of all shapes and sizes can be the best versions of themselves.”

Another is that the show has no overweight characters except for one who is slighted and dropped from the plot. Travers says,

“Insatiable” bounces between bizarre, dark storylines […] and hokey attempts at sincerity…. The tone is all over the place and the issues are too many to count, so if it was meant to be satire, it’s been dulled to the point of nothing.

Despite all the negative reaction, NME writer Sophie Charara notes that after only a week on Netflix, the series garnered a score of 83% from the rating website Rotten tomatoes. Her own response included this assessment:

Post-fatsuit-Patty miraculously doesn’t struggle with hunger or eating habits anymore, aside from one low point with a sheet cake; she doesn’t have stretch marks, she is shown jogging once. And this isn’t even the biggest problem with the show.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Netflix Chief Defends Insatiable After Major ‘Fat-Shaming’ Backlash,” Vulture.com, 07/30/18
Source: “Alyssa Milano Stands by Netflix’s Insatiable: ‘These Issues Are Better in the Open’,” PopSugar.com, 08/19/18
Source: “Netflix’s Insatiable trailer caused a huge backlash. Critics say the show’s even worse…,” Vox.com. 08/09/18
Source: “‘Insatiable’ Review: 12 Irreparable Problems, One from Every Episode, in Netflix’s Disastrous Comedy — Spoilers,” IndieWire.com, 08/10/18
Source: “Netflix’s Insatiable is a ‘disastrophe’ — but that hasn’t stopped it being an audience hit,” NME.com, 08/17/18
Photo credit: RedCarpetReport on Visualhunt/CC BY-SA

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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