July 25, 2018 14:20:57
Last year, Netflix attracted controversy for the drama 13 Reasons Why, which some critics said romanticised youth suicide.
Now, the streaming giant finds itself in a similarly uncomfortable position over another series that mines the social pressures of teenage life — albeit one that no-one has actually seen.
Last week, Netflix started promoting Insatiable, a “dark, twisted revenge comedy” about a high school student named Patty who, after becoming suddenly thin when her jaw is wired shut over summer break, seeks payback from those who previously tormented her about her weight.
It did so through a trailer on social media, ahead of the show’s release in mid-August.
Many people took issue with the clip
One was the writer Roxane Gay, the author of the memoir Hunger who has written extensively about body image.
Others pointed out that the show seemed to suggest the only way Patty could live her best self was through conforming to a Western ideal of beauty.
As the controversy was bubbling away, one of the show’s stars, Alyssa Milano, went live on Periscope to talk about the trailer.
“Of course fat-shaming is wrong … and disordered eating is bad and something that I have suffered with in my life, as well as being fat-shamed,” Milano said.
“Most importantly, a woman’s or man’s or anyone’s weight does not determine their worth. I certainly see how many of you that watched the trailer felt that those values were not conveyed.”
She said she hoped people did not judge a 12-episode series by its two-minute trailer, “like we judge people at first glance”.
Many on social media agreed, saying the criticism was unfair.
Milano also said the satirical series was meant to “hold a mirror” to society and that it was designed to be a “conversation instigator”, something “the trailer has already done”.
That did not tamp down the controversy
The following day, Milano’s co-star, Debby Ryan who plays Patty, said she was excited to work on the show because it “addresses and confronts [body shaming] through satire”.
She said the show was not in the business of fat-shaming.
If you need help or support for an eating disorder or body image issue, please call Butterfly’s National Helpline on 1800 334 673 or e-mail [email protected]
“We’re out to turn a sharp eye on broken, harmful systems that equate thinness with worth,” Ryan said.
It is difficult for experts in body image issues — or anyone else — to judge the series given it has not yet aired.
The Butterfly Foundation CEO Christine Morgan said that, in general, the consequences of weight- and shape-related bullying could be devastating, including mental health issues and eating disorders.
“Size and shape do not equate to self-worth,” she said.
“What is crucial is that those experiencing bullying and concerns about their appearance talk to someone and reach out for help.”
By Monday, a petition calling on Netflix to scrap the series before it airs had gathered more than 100,000 signatures.
After the controversy over 13 Reasons Why, which youth mental health service Headspace criticised for its portrayal of suicide, Netflix added advisory warnings before some episodes and commissioned a study about the show’s impact.
Netflix declined to comment to the ABC on what will happen with Insatiable.
“We still have time to stop this series from being released,” wrote the petition’s author, Florence Given, “and causing a devastation of self-doubt in the minds of young girls who will think that to be happy and be worthy they need to lose weight.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Headspace, The Butterfly Foundation, Lifeline, Kids Helpline or Beyond Blue.
July 25, 2018 13:28:07