‘Insatiable’ lacks integrity for covering edgy material

In Opinion
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(Photo Illustration by Joshua Arief Halim)

Netflix viewers are going to be crying tears — and not of laughter — because the streaming service has decided to renew the gravely controversial show “Insatiable” for a  second season.

Though the decision has been made and can’t be changed, this isn’t to say that angry or disappointed viewers can cower in defeat. Their untamed anger must continue to be heard, serving as a reminder to the entertainment industry to create material that is thoughtful and introspective, not just something that seems momentarily on trend.

Before the show premiered on Aug. 10, it’s trailer met major backlash, portraying a stark image that some believe promoted fat shaming.

While many people brought up valid points concerning the trailer’s narrow point of view, ultimately, it must also be acknowledged that these concerns were expressed before the show aired. This helped create pre-conceived interpretations that unfairly represented the material by taking it literally.

Lauren Gussis, creator of “Insatiable,” posted on Twitter about her own experiences with an eating disorder, and actress Debby Ryan tweeted about the show being satirical, not a literal interpretation of how body image or eating disorders should be viewed.

That being said, once the show premiered, those who were initial skeptics proved to be a little too on the nose regarding the way the season panned out. Anyone who endured the first season knows the show exposed just how misguided the entertainment industry can be regarding large contemporary issues.

Another one of Netflix’s shows, “13 Reasons Why” faced similar backlash due to their portrayal of suicide.

Similarly, “Insatiable” chose to focus on material relevant to today’s youth, like body image and eating disorders, and used it as their major thematic issue throughout the season. But rather than interpret the issue intelligently, writers involved in the show chose to represent these issues in a simplistic, cookie-cutter manner for the sake of driving plot.

Satire is meant to reveal society’s wrongs through humor and absolute ridicule, and when done well, it should carry enough layered commentary that leaves the audience in awe of the writers’ skill. “Insatiable,” however, couldn’t get a better response than an awkward cringe, because even in its most serious and raw moments, it has no clue what it’s doing.

Heather Osborne-Thompson, professor in the cinema and television arts, said that after watching the first episode, she couldn’t quite gauge what the satire of the show was commenting on.

Eating disorders remain a prevalent and dire issue for Americans, with someone dying every 62 minutes as a result from them, according to the Eating Disorders Coalition for Research, Policy & Action.

Treatment is often a rare occurrence as fewer than 1 in 5 adolescents receives treatment for their eating disorder, according to a 2011 study by the Genetic Epidemiology Research Branch in the National Institute of Mental Health.

“Insatiable” chooses to ignore these statistics and the harmful realities of eating disorders, and dismisses any chance of it’s main character seeking professional help or providing their audience with outside information about eating disorders or mental health.

“I was actually surprised in looking at the show that it sort of glossed over the journey of body image,” Osborne-Thompson said.

Rather, the creators chose to highlight the issue of body image and eating disorders in their trailer and throughout their show without bringing up consequential or serious matters. At the very least, the writers could have chosen to analyze old-age stereotypes and historical trends of body image through the character by using satire and irony, but they couldn’t even bother to do that.

This also isn’t Netflix’s first show regarding body image or eating disorders. Last July, the film “To the Bone” was released on the streaming service, and while it certainly wasn’t perfect as a comedy and drama, it had a much more well-rounded approach to understanding the emotional journey and consequences of eating disorders.

While Netflix will surely continue to promote any show on its streaming service that gets viewed — no matter the amount of controversy — this doesn’t mean the second season of “Insatiable” shouldn’t undergo some changes.

Producers, writers and actors of the show “Insatiable,” can continue their ridiculous rampage and stir more hatred, but if they want their show to be less about backlash and more about hype, they need to truly reconsider their methods of portraying serious dilemmas like eating disorders while also being able to carry a good laugh.

Angered fans and critics aren’t going to stop their remarks any time soon, but if the writers and actors can step down from their superfluous inability to accept constructive criticism to better the show’s satirical elements, then perhaps the second season of “Insatiable” can have some form of redeemable qualities to it.

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