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Viewpoint: Hollywood’s “Insatiable” Appetite for Fat-Shaming

Retrieved+from+Vice.com
Retrieved from Vice.com

Retrieved from Vice.com

Retrieved from Vice.com

Marissa Widdifield, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice Reporter

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Heading off to one’s first year of college is a rite of passage. The summer is over, leaves on the trees start to change colors and school begins. This time can be thrilling for first-year students as they grow from being completely dependent and now, living on their own. New experiences emerge and so do emotions such as excitement, but more frequently: stress, anxiety, and fear.

Paul Schilder, a psychiatrist, defined body image as “the picture of our own body which we form in our mind… [it is] the way in which the body appears to itself” (Research Gate). Body image is an extremely developmental concern for adolescents and because of the physical, psychological and social transitions during the ages of 17 to 24.

It doesn’t help that dissatisfaction with one’s body has become a normative discontent. This dissatisfaction has been propped up in nice picture frames and so commonly felt and regularly communicated to all growing individuals. Those who suffer from body image issues are subjected to hidden marginalization and have little to no outlets to discuss their concerns upon.

Body image has even become as trivial as to become a plot device in Netflix’s new T.V. show, Insatiable. The show is about a teenage girl named Patty, played by Debby Ryan, who suffers from bullying because she is overweight. When she loses weight, Patty decides to seek revenge on each of her abusers. This isn’t the first television show to incorporate body image issues into their plot lines for a comedic punch. Monica Geller, played by Courtney Cox on Friends, as well as Winston Schmidt, played by Max Greenfield on New Girl, have flashback scenes where they wear a fat suit to signify times when they were hilariously self-conscious and unhappy.
Today, television reinforces the idea that to be fat is to be dissatisfied with oneself and promotes that it is something to laugh at. It does nothing to show that the reason this is likely true is because the media portrays skinny as the epitome of health and happiness and the sole normative and end goal.

In Insatiable, Patty becomes physically attractive and desired only after she loses weight by having her jaw wired shut for three months ensuing an all-liquid diet. The message that losing weight by extreme dieting makes a person desirable and “better” is not a positive message to convey to the vulnerable young adults that make up the audience of this show.

At the premiere of Insatiable, Debby Ryan was asked by Access News, “Were you surprised at the outcry from the trailer at all?”

Debby responded, “It was definitely unexpected, but I think anytime you touch on subjects that are typically and historically taboo there will be response and there should be response because there is such an important conversation to be had.”
In an interview with Good Morning America this past August, Alyssa Milano, Ryan’s co-star, responded to the criticism as well.

Milano said, “I think to me, the most important thing for us to do is to acknowledge it and say that the trailer actually hurt people and we understand that. But to also look at the show as a satirical look at what could happen if you are fat-shamed or bullied…Upon first glance the show is something and I think people reacted to that, but really when you get deeper into it, it’s about something else.”

The creators of Insatiable had the intention to do what Milano described but instead the show reinforces the idea that the only stories worth telling are from those who are skinny. This Netflix series had an opportunity to say something; to really convey something positive towards who struggle with body image, but unfortunately exhibited what Hollywood does best: fat-shame.

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