It’s a story we’ve heard, read and watched a hundred times. ‘Girl gets bullied for being fat, girl loses weight and is suddenly perceived as ‘hot’, girl gets revenge on those who mocked her.’ This trope has been around for years and most of us had hoped it had seen it’s last days. Apparently not. On July 19th Netflix dropped the trailer for ‘Insatiable’, their new teen TV series starring Debby Ryan.
The trailer starts with Debby Ryan in a fat suit, receiving fatphobic abuse from her fellow high school students. It then jumps to her being punched in the face and fast-forward a few weeks (months?) she’s back walking those same halls having lost weight, sporting a whole new style and being looked upon with awe for her new look, stating that “having my jaw wired shut, lost me more than just my summer vacation” and that she can now be “the former fatty who turned into a brain or an athlete or a princess.” She then decides that she “rather have revenge” before the trailer shows numerous snapshots of said revenge and the reaction they receive.
Trigger warning for fatphobia, body shaming, ableist language and traits of disordered eating.
Whether or not it’s what Netflix intended (I’m assuming/hoping they were at least trying to send some kind of positive message?) and forgetting the fact having a thin actress wear a fat suit is all kinds of problematic, the message sent by the ‘Insatiable’ trailer is unbelievably harmful in a multitude of ways.
First of all, the show, especially the line, “the former fatty who turned into a brain or an athlete or a princess” perpetuates the ridiculous myth that apparently you can’t be any of these things unless you’re skinny? It pushes the mindset that you can’t be intelligent, successful, beautiful, athletic if you’re fat, which is a bunch of ableist, fatphobic nonsense. Whether you are fat or not has absolutely nothing to do with how successful or intelligent or beautiful or talented you are. Society and the media need to stop pushing this ridiculous and harmful idea.
Then there’s the line “having my jaw wired shut, lost me more than just my summer vacation.” There are a million things wrong with this sentence but mostly glaringly, it’s selling the idea that literally not eating a thing, is a viable way to lose weight. Considering the fact that this show is most likely going to be attracting a young, female audience, this is beyond harmful in every sense of the word. Glamorising not eating as a way to lose weight is, consciously or not, glamorising disordered eating.
In an age where diet culture is already dominating the media, wherever we turn, we’re already bombarded enough with schemes for weight loss and ‘Insatiable’ is seemingly pushing the most dangerous of them all. Eating disorders are devastating, messy and life-threatening illnesses and having a teen show unwittingly or not push the idea of one, has the potential to cause a lot of harm to a lot of people.
Fat people have been the punchline of fatphobic jokes and the ‘before’ in the ‘ugly girl gets pretty’ plots for too many years and it’s got to stop. Fat people aren’t anyone’s before, they’re not here as a device to be used as inspiration or torture porn. Fat people are beautiful, intelligent, talented and not ‘despite’ being fat. Losing weight doesn’t make you ‘hot’ and being ‘hot’ shouldn’t be equated to being skinny. The amount of lives ruined and confidence destroyed by this idea is exhausting, heartbreaking and a continuous battle. It’s a battle those in the body positivity movement have been fighting for years and having shows like ‘Insatiable’ attempt to join this movement with their new ‘hot take’ and flawed perspective is extremely detrimental.
Putting a thin actress in a fat suit and having her lose weight isn’t body positivity. Having a character be bullied and tormented for being fat, only for them to get revenge once they lose weight and become ‘hot’ isn’t body positivity. The world doesn’t need any more stories with their fatphobic, ableist, body shaming, disordered eating messages being thinly veiled behind the pretence of being ‘inspiring’. What the world needs is characters who are fat, successful, intelligent and talented, portrayed by fat, successful, intelligent and talented actors and actresses. We need stories of badass fat girls getting revenge without losing weight. We need stories following fat characters who are fat, without making the whole plot surround that one simple fact. We need films and TV shows told through the perspective of a fat main character who isn’t just the funny friend or the pitied friend or the friend in desperate need of a makeover. We need stories where the fat girl stays fat, accepts and loves her body, says goodbye to all of societies infuriating beauty standards and rules the world.
The toxic ‘fat girl loses weight and gets hot’ trope needs to die. It helps no one and continues to preserve the absurd myth that thinness equates to beauty and success. The media needs to stop putting stories like ‘Insatiable’ into the world and instead push stories that defy this message and start to fix the detrimental, societal mess we’re in when it comes to beauty standards and the way society perceives bodies.