Is Skinny Magic?

By now, it’s not news that Insatiable has been hit with a load of backlash from people since its release in early August. Within days of the trailer’s first release, many were quick to criticize, accusing the series of “fat-shaming” and depicting a twisted portrayal of weight loss. With an astounding 11% on Rotten Tomatoes, the show’s release on Netflix has already prompted over 230,000 people to sign a petition for the cancellation of the “body-shaming series.”  

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Side by side photos of Patty before and after she lost weight. Taken from Netflix

In the show, Patty Bladell, played by former Disney actress Debby Ryan, is an overweight and bullied teenager who suffers an injury that forces her to live off a liquid diet for three months and dramatically lose weight. Now “thin,” she seeks revenge on those who hurt her and gets help from Bob Armstrong, a disgraced lawyer, who introduces her to the world of beauty pageants.

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Patty trying to set the man on fire who initially hurt her and got her injured from Season 1, Episode 2: Skinny Is Magic. Taken from Netflix

People have lashed out at Insatiable for its supposedly insulting representation of people who are overweight and the lack of attention to this sensitive topic. Many also suggest that the show promotes disturbing themes and messages, primarily referencing the moment when Bob tries to comfort Patty in the second episode of season one by telling her that “skinny is magic.”

“Do I believe the show is perfect in its representation of all the characters? No. Do I believe that it deserves the hate and anger that it has been getting? Also, no.” 

However, not everyone has expressed discontent for the show. Some have shared that they believe the show is coming from a place of good intentions.

Nina Suzuki, a junior at SAS, makes it clear that she believes the show isn’t all that bad: “I think under all the satire and dark comedy, there is something the producers are trying to get across. I appreciate their efforts on trying to shine some light on the darker parts of an issue that isn’t normally discussed.”

In an article published by Vanity Fair, the creator of Insatiable, Lauren Gussis, urges people to give her controversial show a chance. In the piece, she detailed her personal experiences with body image and her motives behind creating the show. Gussis claims, “if people don’t like the dark-comedy tone of Insatiable, I can only tell my story in my voice and emotionally what I relate to… Maybe the details weren’t exactly the same, but the emotions were… I just want people to feel less alone. I want them to connect. If I had seen some of these journeys or these characters when I was a teenager, I totally would have felt more O.K.” 

As someone who had already watched the trailer, early when it came out, I do believe that much of this could have been prevented or at the very least mitigated by putting more thought into the initial presentation of the series in the first trailer – to show, if it truly is, that Insatiable is more than just a story about a girl who loses weight.

But I understand that producers’ intentions came from a good place of the heart. I’ll give them that. As a teenage girl who personally took the time to view this series, when I do get past all the dark humor, I see someone who produced a show with an attempt to start much-needed conversations. Do I believe the show is perfect in its representation of all the characters? No. Do I believe that it deserves the hate and anger that it has been getting? Also, no. 

Gussis was not the only one to speak up about the storm of reactions the series has been receiving. In an article by Independent, Debby Ryan, who plays Patty, also shared her thoughts on the attacks on the series: “Twelve years into my own struggles with body image struggles that took me in and out of terrible places I never want to go to again… I was drawn to this show’s willingness to go to real places about how difficult and scary it can be to move through the world in a body, whether you’re being praised or criticised for its size, and what it feels like to pray to be ignored because it’s easier than being seen.”

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Patty being bullied for her weight at her high school from Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot. Taken from Netflix

Were there other ways the show could have been represented? Yes. Does the show represent a willingness to spark necessary conversations amongst adults and the youth? Yes. With Netflix now preparing for the renewal of the show’s second season, I suggest that maybe we think over whether or not this show really deserves as much backlash as it has been getting.

Author: Han Sohn

Han Sohn is the Chief Marketing Strategist for The Eye, and this is her second year working as a reporter for The Eye. Currently a senior, she is reaching her eighth year at SAS and fifteenth year in Singapore. At school, on most days, she can be found sharing relatable memes with her friends and updating posts on her bullet journing account @jahm.studies (in collaraboration with three other seniors). At home, she can be found binge-watching American Horror Story, or Black Mirror, or lying on her bed streaming the latest horror movies. She can be contacted at sohn31766@sas.edu.sg.

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