“Insatiable” Revisited

In this month of childhood obesity awareness, it becomes crystal clear that the number one source of awareness is media, and also that the information channels are increasingly monolithic and interchangeable, as material that starts out online shows up on television and vice versa. Additionally, audiences are left to increasingly wonder: Of what, exactly, are they meant to experience increased awareness?

“Insatiable” is a Netflix series billed as a dark comedy-drama or even, according to its creators, a satire, that ran for two seasons, or 22 episodes. Basically, a high-school girl has her jaws wired shut for a few weeks, loses 70 pounds, and dedicates her subsequent life to enacting revenge against those who slighted her when she was obese. The picture on this page is star Debby Ryan.

In a previous mention of the show, we noted that some critics disliked the use of a “fat suit” for scenes that took place in the lead character’s past. Others hated the underlying theme that losing weight is the sole and only road to a happy life. Before the show even hit the airwaves, well over 200,000 people had already signed a Change.org protest petition.

An embarrassing question

The search engine’s “People also ask” feature begins with the query, “Why is Insatiable so bad?” Let’s figure it out!

Writer Joe Berkowitz titled a piece, “Netflix’s ‘Insatiable’ Isn’t a Fat-Shaming Show: It’s Much Worse,” saying…

The world of Insatiable diverges with reality from the start. It takes place in an alternative universe where everybody is openly contemptuous of the obese all the time.

But hey, it’s TV; it’s fiction. A totally hostile universe might be just what a dark comedy-drama needs — if only it had been handled with some intelligence and finesse. In the definite minus column, the slimming process is made to look all too easy, just a matter of three months on a liquid diet. And “with all of the pounds coming from exactly where she’d want them to, as if cut by a topiary artist, and with nary a stretch mark left behind.”

In real life, every person who has achieved significant weight loss warns maintaining it is the hardest part. But this character’s weight “magically stays evaporated, for reasons we never quite find out.” Those are not, however, Berkowitz’s only objections. He perceives, especially when a lawyer joins the cast, not only a plethora of mixed messages, but some that are downright unethical and ugly. He writes,

[I]t seems like the show’s conception of “revenge” is restricted mostly to “becoming a beauty queen.” Even if Patty wanted something other than to prove the extent of her hotness in a competitive setting, the show offers an irresponsible, dangerous depiction of her too-easy physical transformation, the seamless results of it, and their miraculous sustainability.

NPR’s Linda Holmes elaborated on this theme:

[O]ther than at a couple of highly emotional moments when she binge-eats in scenes portrayed as grotesque, her weight and her eating habits are never an issue again. This, it should go without saying, is generally not how it goes.

Holmes called the series “lazy and dull,” and goes on to work up a head of steam citing such incidental offenses as “tone-deaf deployment of sexual assault and abuse as comedy […] racist tropes […] portrayals of people with Southern accents as dumb hicks…” The trouble for the lead character all started when she punched a homeless man who tried to steal her candy bar, a plot device that causes Holmes to comment:

[N]o matter how bad you have heard that Insatiable is, no matter how bad the petitions have concluded that it is, it is worse.

(To be continued…)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “Netflix’s ‘Insatiable’ Isn’t a Fat-Shaming Show: It’s Much Worse,” Medium.com, 08/08/18
Source: “‘Insatiable’ Is Lazy And Dull, But At Least It’s Insulting,” NPR.org, 08/09/18
Image by Red Carpet Report/CC BY-SA 2.0

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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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