Netflix have outdone themselves by platforming a poisonous show that, at its core, isn’t remotely funny while being hugely offensive and triggering for a variety of reasons.
Note: The following contains spoilers for episodes one and two.
Picture the scene: Patty (Debby Ryan) is an overweight and unhappy highschooler which, by this show’s definition, means she’s a complete failure, ugly inside and out, and totally worthless in every sense. This early establishing trope is arguably the most unpleasant that runs through the spine of the show, but there’s plenty more exploitation of acceptable taste that makes for uncomfortable viewing.
As we’re introduced to a variety of displaced individuals, we quickly see that everyone around her appears just as shallow and vile in their own special way. Take Bob (Dallas Roberts) who turns into Patty’s mentor after his career as a lawyer takes a turn for the worst when a disgruntled mother accuses him of sexually assaulting her schoolgirl daughter – yes, the idea of paedophilia is used as a prop for laughs.
The catalyst for Patty’s transformation from the show’s fatty to fittie ethos is after a homeless man punches her over a row over her snacks. She’s left in a mouth brace for three months and, low and behold, sheds the weight and is now a beautiful young girl everyone in town is fawning over. The drooling and ogling continues through a bunch of one-liners about Patty’s sexual attraction and sudden purpose in life because she’s now pretty, as well as cheap giggles for recurring fat-shaming, eating disorders, and bullying jokes.
And that all comes within the first fifteen minutes.
What Netflix is forgetting is its audience share of young and impressionable viewers ho don’t merely consume brainlessly. The content they’re shown often leaves an impression: just look at the moral fibre of Stranger Things, for example and how popular and iconic its leads can become.
The idea that Bob is being smeared as a paedophile and getting himself into further escapades when the same Mean Girls style mum tries to further frame him as a child molester is particularly disturbing. The show handles this as a frivolous McGuffin that scuppers Bob without for one second acknowledging the seriousness of it. Not only are we living in a time where sexual abuse and predatory behaviour is being called out; here we see someone making false accusations and getting away with it as everyone goes about their business without giving much thought to its damaging impact.
It also manage to chuck in a dose of mockery when it comes to cancer and suicide, too, making light of depression, and uses the notion of setting a homeless man on fire as a jaunty storyline that demonises said poor people as stereotypical violent, alcoholic criminals to raise a giggle.
It’s surprising that Alyssa Milano is a supporting character in this production, considering her ever-present position within ‘The Resistance’ and as a prominent voice in the #MeToo movement. The fact that this programme uses the horrors of sexual assault, harassment, and paedophilia to generate laughs and trivialise it displays a worrying lack of awareness when accepting the role.
Some argue that its bitchy sensibility is catering to a specific audience with a dark sense of humour, but when something appears this universally offensive and tastelessly unfunny it’s hard to fathom how anyone can enjoy such a grossly offensive mess.
But even if this is tongue-in-cheek attempted comedy and regardless of any turnaround later on in its season, the irreversible damage it does to its susceptible audience within its opening two hours should be enough to illustrate plenty of concern.
If you want to watch something that realistically tackles the nuances and ups and downs of mental health, character flaws, and self love, check out Crazy Ex-Girlfriend because that’s also witty and well-written — qualities Insatiable cannot claim.
Season one of Insatiable is available on Netflix now.