Trigger Warning: This article talks about body image and eating disorders.
The concept of body positivity has become popularized in the media during the past five years. Some of the most popular celebrities don’t abide by standard western beauty standards. Even the modeling industry, which has has been exclusive in nature, has begun to be more inclusive.
Despite all these drastic changes to mainstream culture, the highly controversial Netflix show Insatiable has released a second season despite a petition signed by over 200,000 calling for the show’s cancellation. The show’s plot deals with a girl named Patty (Debbie Ryan) who dramatically loses weight leading her to become a pageant queen.
The second season continues with this idea of “skinny girl privilege,” which is the idea that women who have a body type deemed as acceptable by society have an easier way in life in terms of things like clothing options. For instance, Patty kills people in the first season’s finale but manages to get away with it in the second season due to her looks and position as a pageant queen.
I met up with Kayla Koroma ’22, a Human Development major who is a peer facilitator with Body Positive Cornell, to chat about the second season of Insatiable.
The Sun: Have you ever seen Insatiable and what were your opinions?
Koroma: I watched season one of it, and I found it ridiculous how they portrayed the main character’s life-changing for the better just because she lost weight. I mean, I know this show is supposed to be campy and supposed to be a joke, but the idea of it is still there and, quite frankly, it’s not good.
The Sun: Can you explain how people who watch this show may see these ideas about weight loss and eating disorders as truth and not satire?
Koroma: Although, it’s 2019 and we’re still progressing. “Fat” characters are portrayed as funny, side characters … on television. As soon as these “fat” characters lose weight, their life changes for the better as they suddenly become “attractive” overnight and more socially acceptable. This idea is prevalent in Insatiable. For instance, Debbie Ryan’s character, who was bullied by her peers, loses weight and suddenly becomes a beauty queen. This is very problematic for many reasons. And, also, the portrayal of how she lost weight is not a healthy and kind of scary.
The Sun: What do you think of how the show considers binge eating disorder a comedic trope instead of a mental illness?
Koroma: BED is a thing, and it’s very serious. People do use it to emotionally cope, but I feel as though it can’t be taken lightly as it can do serious mental and physical harm. It’s kind of distasteful to use this type of eating disorder as a form of comedic relief?
The Sun: What do you think of the “skinny girl privilege” shown in the show, and what does it say about our society?
Koroma: Basically, I feel like Insatiable emphasizes the idea or the fact that society caters to a population of skinny and, often, white people. We see this in the show when the main character commits crimes but manages to get away with it due to her appearance as a white, skinny woman. You can tell that there’s a lot of privilege due to her appearance in the outcome of her actions.
The Sun: Do you think that Insatiable should feature a trigger warning similar to what’s in 13 Reasons Why?
Koroma: I mean, I think so. I can understand why some people find this extra, but it doesn’t hurt. A trigger warning doesn’t hurt you, and the issues that this show covers are real. People suffer with this everyday. I think this show could really benefit from a trigger warning.
Insatiable can be a fun show to watch, but I encourage all to take it with a grain of salt. The creators of this show claim that it is not meant to be taken seriously, that it is satirical in nature and it a parody of society’s beauty standards, but it is not so obvious to many viewers.
Students may consult with counselors from Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) by calling 607-255-5155. Employees may call the Faculty Staff Assistance Program (FSAP) at 607-255-2673. An Ithaca-based Crisisline is available at 607-272-1616. For additional resources, visit caringcommunity.cornell.edu.