Former Disney darling Debby Ryan’s new show has been hit by a wave of criticism, with over 100,000 people signing a petition to axe the mean-spirited series before it airs.
The first trailer for Netflix’s Insatiable, which was released last week (ends20Jul18), debuted Debby’s new character Patty, a bullied, overweight teenager who sheds the pounds over a summer break after her broken jaw is wired shut and returns to school with a stunning new look and an appetite for vengeance on everyone who mistreated her.
Critics immediately slammed the show’s plot, insisting it simply serves to feed the stereotype that teenage girls need to be slim and beautiful to be accepted by their peers.
A Change.org petition was launched urging Netflix bosses to cancel the show, with organiser Florence Given writing: “For so long, the narrative has told women and young impressionable girls that in order to be popular, to have friends, to be desirable for the male gaze, and to some extent be a worthy human… that we must be thin.
“The toxicity of this series is bigger than just this one particular series. This is not an isolated case, but part of a much larger problem that I can promise you every single woman has faced in her life, sitting somewhere on the scale of valuing their worth on their bodies, to be desirable objects for the male gaze. That is exactly what this series does. It perpetuates not only the toxicity of diet culture but the objectification of women’s bodies.”
As of press time, more than 100,000 people had signed Given’s petition.
Responding to the backlash over the weekend, Ryan shared her thoughts with fans in an Instagram post, writing: “As someone who cares deeply about the way our bodies, especially women’s, are shamed and policed in society, I was so excited to work on Insatiable because it’s a show that addresses and confronts those ideas through satire. Satire is a way to poke fun at the hardest things, bring darkness into the light, and enter difficult conversations.
“Over the last few days I’ve seen how many voices are protective and fiercely outspoken about the themes that come into play in this story. I’m grateful for that, and comforted by it, because I want those stories told right too.
“Twelve years into my own struggles with body image, struggles that took me in and out of terrible places I never want to go again, things I choose every day to leave behind, 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 criticized for its size, and what it feels like to pray to be ignored because it’s easier than being seen.
“The humor is not in the fat-shaming… The redemption is in identifying the bullies and saying ‘this is not okay’. We’re not in the business of fat shaming. We’re out to turn a sharp eye on broken, harmful systems that equate thinness with worth.”
Debby added, “I hope fans will wait and watch the show before passing judgment. If you go for this ride, I think you’ll recognize both yourself and the things that make you mad about our fractured and beauty-obsessed culture.”
Insatiable is still slated to premiere on 10 August (18).