Entertainment & Arts

Netflix's Insatiable faces backlash over 'fat-shaming'

Debby Ryan as Patty Image copyright Tina Rowden/Netflix
Image caption Debby Ryan plays Patty in the Netflix series

Netflix's trailer for its new series, Insatiable, is facing a backlash across social media for its apparent "fat-shaming" plot.

The series stars Debby Ryan as Patty, a high school teen who has been bullied because of her weight.

But some viewers have criticised for the way it appears to tackle the issue.

Ryan wears a fat suit for the role, while her classmates are seen calling her "fatty Patty" and making jokes about her in the trailer.

"Don't watch shows where people wear fat suits. Don't watch shows where they try to turn fat phobia and hatred into a joke," one viewer tweeted.

However, others have pointed out that the show has not yet aired - and argued people should withhold their judgement until it has.

One user tweeted: "As a former fat kid, I don't find this trash. It's dark humour and commentary on what the real world is like."

The plot of Insatiable sees Patty spend her summer with her jaw wired shut after being punched in the face during a fight, and loses weight as a result.

She returns to school after a dramatic physical change, with her fellow pupils shocked at her appearance.

She then sets out to prove wrong everyone who underestimated her when she was larger.

Image copyright Annette Brown/Netflix

Patty is joined by Bob Armstrong (played by Dallas Roberts), a disgraced lawyer turned beauty pageant coach who takes on the teen to be the next queen.

Bob's social-climbing wife is being played by Alyssa Milano, well known for playing Pheobe Halliwell in Charmed.

She has already defended her role in the project:

Lauren Gussis, who wrote and executive produced the show said the show was based off her own experiences growing up.

She told Teen Vogue that Patty the demon of her "inner formerly bullied teenager".

"I really felt like it was important to look at [bullying] head on and talk about it," she explained.

Plus-sized women in Hollywood

Campaigners have often argued that plus-size characters on screen are confined to the role of the sassy, best friend such as Amber Riley's Mercedes in Glee.

Any storylines such characters are given frequently focus on their weight, like Chrissy Metz's character Kate in This Is Us.

Or, any dialogue that character does have is riddled with jokes about their size, which often happened in Mike and Molly, which starred Melissa McCarthy.

In 2012, author and commentator Roxane Gay wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the success of plus-sized women in the industry often comes at a high cost.

"They are always considered overweight long before they are considered women. The constancy of this erasure is telling." she said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gay's most recent book Hunger focuses on her relationship with her self-image

Stephanie Yeboah, a plus-sized style blogger, believes that this narrative does "nothing to promote or progress the body positivity movement at all".

"Portraying a fat person as the 'joke' character before they lose weight, against their will, who eventually becomes respected and popular is damaging and irresponsible," Yeboah told the BBC.

She added shows which "display clear fatphobic ideologies" are harmful.

"Fat women can be desirable. We can be sexy. We can be popular in school. We can have amazing careers and families. We deserve to have this narrative told."


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