Debby Ryan, lead actor in Netflix’s upcoming new satire series Insatiable, has responded to claims the show promotes fat-shaming.
If you haven’t seen the trailer, Insatiable follows the life of Patty (Ryan), a high school student who is repeatedly and brutally bullied for being overweight. Then, after being punched in the face so hard she’s sent to the hospital to get her jaw-rewired, Patty returns to school having also undergone a weight reduction surgery.
Now thin and desired by everyone, Patty uses her newfound popularity to get her revenge on every single student who made life for her hell.
Violence is involved.
As their Twitter says, “This story’s full of some crazy shit.”
Immediately, fans of the streaming giant denounced the series with one writing “I’ve never been this disappointed in @netflix – from body dysmorphia to giving kids the idea that revenge bullying is justified, what other toxic BS are you trying to feed your audience.”
Another user wrote:
a concept: you make a movie where the main character is fat and doesn’t have to lose weight to be appreciated and respected.— emma (@voteemma2032) July 20, 2018
In response to the backlash, Ryan wrote in a message posted to her social media:
As someone who cares deeply about the way out 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 in the light, and enter difficult conversations. I have to laugh at my pain, otherwise I’ll dissolve and weep and get stuck instead of working through it. It’s a coping mechanism and, for a lot of people who are telling these stories, a healing mechanism. 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 criticised for its size, and what it feels like to pray to be ignored because it’s easier than being seen. It was very important to Lauren Gussis, our writer and showrunner from whose brain and heart and life the character of Patty was born, as well as me, that any scenes where Patty was heavier don’t use her size as a punchline, and never justify the abuse she suffers. The humour is not in the fat-shaming (or thin-shaming, slut-shaming, virgin-shaming, “glam-shaming” for fans of Arie’s season of the Bachelor). The redemption is in identifying the bullies and saying “this is not okay”.
Patty had the same brain, the same sense of humour and style, soul and heart, the same chucks, but felt like she didn’t matter to anyone until she was thin. She didn’t have the same opportunities, and she was treated worse, which is what triggers her rage. And Patty doesn’t starve herself skinny. She snaps and undergoes a physical transformation, but it doesn’t make her happy. 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.
I want more women to keep telling their stories and through that, face the gutting realisations that bog us down every day. I’m grateful to be on a show by whip-smart female creators that aims to dissect the insidious pressures we place on young women. I hope fans will wait and watch the show before passing judgement. If you go for this ride, I think you’ll recognise both yourself and the things that make you mad about our fractured and beauty-obsessed culture.
Showrunner Lauren Gussis also shared a message writing Insatiable is “a cautionary tale about how damaging it can be to believe the outsides are more important – to judge without going deeper. Please give the show a chance.”
The 12-episode season will premier on Netflix, August 10.