Insatiable is entertaining, while morally ambiguous

By COLE DOUGLASS | September 6, 2018

B5_Debby ryan
RED CARPET REPORT/CC BY-SA 2.0 Debby Ryan stars in the controversial series that debuted this summer.

When the trailer for Netflix’s Insatiable was released back in July, it immediately garnered a large amount of controversy.

Upon re-watching the trailer, it’s easy to see why. The trailer seemed to make the claim that all of its protagonist’s problems could be solved following a miraculous weight loss. 

However, after having watched the show, it is pretty clear that the trailer misrepresented Insatiable and its message, possibly to gain publicity and increase initial viewership. 

It may be trashy, but Insatiable takes a far more interesting and nuanced stance towards its protagonist and her story than the trailer would suggest. 

And if you can get past its flaws, there’s a good chance that you’ll have a good time watching it.

Insatiable tells the story of Patty Bladell (Debby Ryan), a high school senior who has spent her entire life being mercilessly tormented by her classmates because of her weight and being known around school as “Fatty Patty.”

However, when she loses 70 pounds after having her jaw wired shut for three months, she decides to enter the local beauty pageant circuit to show the rest of the world that she can be a “winner” and get her revenge.

However, Patty quickly realizes that becoming “beautiful” hasn’t magically solved all of her problems, and her quest for greatness quickly throws off the lives of everyone around her. 

I won’t lie, it’s hard to write a good summary of Insatiable because the show’s plot is completely insane and nonsensical. 

What starts out as a simple show about Southern beauty pageants is quickly derailed by arson, demonic possession, kidnapping and all sorts of other morally ambiguous hijinks. 

Every time that you think the show and the characters have reached their limits, they find a way to surpass all of your expectations in the most bizarre and horrifying ways imaginable. There’s definitely a lot of fun to be had in watching the show fly off the rails, especially since the writers are always willing to push the characters one step further than you would expect.

However, Insatiable also takes a more realistic approach to Patty’s story, which helps strengthen the narrative even further. Even after the weight loss, she is clearly still insecure in her body, and most of her “wacky hijinks” are born out of that insecurity. 

The show makes it pretty obvious how the years of mistreatment and neglect have affected Patty’s outlook, and some of the show’s most engaging scenes happen when Patty is forced to confront how she feels about herself. 

Of course, the strength of a show’s plot is largely dependent on the characters performing in it, and Insatiable stumbles with that.

Patty is surrounded by a fairly large cast of characters, almost all of whom are immediately sucked into the whirlwind of her soap opera life. 

For the most part, all of the characters are entertaining to watch; Irene Choi is a particular stand-out as Dixie Sinclair, a pageant girl whose main role in every scene is to cause as much chaos as possible. 

Dallas Roberts also shines as Patty’s pageant coach, Robert Armstrong, Jr., whose life is always destroyed by her schemes and impulses.

However, at times the large cast makes it difficult to become invested in the characters. 

Every character has a plotline, which causes the show to feel a little jumbled at times, especially when it isn’t immediately obvious how they fit together. 

Characters have inconsistent motivations and seem to change their minds frequently for the sake of prolonging conflict; it is hard to care about what decision a character makes when you know that they’ll change their mind at least twice by the end of the episode. 

To make matters worse, very few of the characters get any sort of meaningful characterization; the “bad boy” love interest is supposed to feel edgy and rebellious because he mentions a few rock bands, and we don’t even get a good idea of what Patty was like before her weight loss. 

Any character development is undermined because the audience doesn’t have a good understanding of any of the characters, beyond their initial archetypes.

When I first started watching Insatiable, I was prepared to hate it, and I did. A lot of the show’s problems are evident right from the get-go and they stick around for the entirety of the season. 

Still, by the time I got to the second half of the series, I realized that I was looking forward to what the show would throw at me next. 

Insatiable might not be the peak of prestige television (it isn’t even really good), but as far as guilty pleasures go, it sits up there with the best of them.

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