A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Insatiable is an over-the-top comedy about a high school girl who loses a considerable amount of weight and then decides to take revenge on those who treated her badly when she was larger. Iffy messages are relentless, with characters joking about body type, beauty, women's societal roles, violence, and inappropriate or even criminal sexual behavior, such as child sexual abuse. One character is unjustly accused of sexually abusing underage girls by a woman out for revenge. Adult characters have a threesome, with no nudity. In other scenes, a teen uses her body to convince a man not to testify against her in court, and to set another man up for revenge (she considers murdering him by setting him on fire). She doesn't regain the weight over the course of the series. Teens drink without consequence; one adult character shares drinks with a teen who then strips off her shirt and stands in front of him in her bra. A man says that smoking "keeps the pounds off" when offering a teen a cigarette. Violence is intense and unexpected: A man is bludgeoned to death, a character nearly dies by suicide with a gun, and major characters are murdered. Language includes "f--k," "damn," "ass," "hell," and "bitch" as well as "whore" and "fatty." The series is framed as a satire but the jokes generally don't land, making this a not-that-entertaining choice for teens -- with the wrongheaded messages about revenge and body image as icing on this unfortunate cake.
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What's the story?
When she weighed 70 pounds more, Patty (Debby Ryan) was a punching bag to everyone in her life. But after unexpectedly losing the weight, Patty's INSATIABLE for revenge. A chance encounter with Bob Armstrong (Dallas Roberts), a disgraced attorney whose passion is coaching beauty pageant contestants, convinces her that going on the pageant circuit is her best vengeance bet. But neither Bob nor his calculating wife, Coralee (Alyssa Milano), have any conception of just how far Patty will go to exact her payback.
Is it any good?
Satire is hard to get right -- and many of the choices this well-meaning series makes renders its particular take particularly hard to swallow. Showrunner Lauren Gussis is on record as saying that she intended Insatiable to be a sort of "take 'em down from the inside" critique of beauty standards and bullying, inspired by her own rough social experiences as a teen. But delaying Patty's self-actualization until she's magically lost weight was a fatal decision that makes its satire toothless. A show about a larger-bodied person learning to accept herself and ignore the haters would have been a relatively fresh take, something not seen often in a medium where we're routinely asked to view model-gorgeous women as plain or even ugly just because she's wearing glasses or an unflattering hairstyle.
There's also the troubling matter of all the anti-fat messages this show slings. Even if they're meant as a joke, hearing characters -- especially those we're supposed to like! -- say things like "Nobody likes a fatty!" and "Pretty girls don't have to settle" is uncomfortable and unfunny. Humor should punch up -- and surprise. There's nothing surprising about voicing the kind of rote insults that litter Reddit posts. Insatiable's out-of-kilter violence is the final blow for woke viewers. Having been tortured for her body type her whole life, it's natural that Patty would be filled with rage. Enough rage to soak a sleeping man's bed in alcohol and try to set him alight? Um, maybe you could rethink that plan and send a sternly worded note instead? Like this unfortunately wrongheaded show, that revenge plan could use a makeover.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the messages Insatiable spreads about body image and bullying. Are they positive? Are they intended to be? How can you tell? What messages does this show give about weight and beauty?
Actress Debby Ryan is 25 years old and portraying a teenager. Why do you think more shows don't use real teens to portray teen characters? Would you like it if they did?
TV shows often portray characters who act in unrealistic ways for comic or dramatic effect. What examples can you name in Insatiable? Is the violence portrayed intended to be realistic? Is it funny? Scary? What about the sexual content? Were there any jokes about sex or violence that made you uncomfortable? Why?
Families can talk about comedy and satire. How does a show successfully address complex issues using jokes? Do you think this show is funny? When can comedy help people talk about things that are hard to talk about?
What does feeling good about yourself and your body mean to you? Do you think the show's story would be different if Patty had stayed overweight? Why or why not?
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