A couple of days ago, Netflix came out with the trailer for its new show Insatiable. Things went downhill from there.
The new show is based on a book about an overweight high school girl who is constantly bullied for her weight. Then she’s punched in the face (the trailer doesn’t explain why), breaks her jaw and has to have it wired shut, thus losing all of her extra weight. She comes back to school transformed and is instantly popular but vows to take revenge on the people who wronged her while she was overweight.
Unsurprisingly, potential audiences for the show were offended at the way the main, plus sized character is portrayed. Debbie Ryan, a surely not plus sized person, plays the character and wears a fat suit during her character’s pre-jaw-wired-shut parts of the show.
Creators of the show fired back to concerned fans that, don’t worry, it’s satire.
What is it satirizing exactly? The way that fat people are treated and portrayed in media? That the fat character has to lose the weight first to be accepted and treated like a person?
Satire can’t be a get out of jail free card for producing something that’s bad. Criticism can’t be deflected by simply saying “it’s satire!” The word “satire” isn’t some bullet proof-shield against legitimate complaints.
When it comes to portraying plus sized people in media, it’s often one step forward, two steps back. The week before, Netflix dropped the trailer for Sierra Burgess is a Loser, in which Shannon Pursuer portrays a high school girl struggling with body image in a much more empathetic look at what life is like for bigger teenage girls. This seems like a better investment of Netflix subscribers’ time than Insatiable.