Netflix's 'Insatiable' Season 1, Episode 11 Recap: 'Winners Win. Period.'
Since its controversial trailer dropped, “Insatiable,” a Netflix series that addresses mental health topics, has made headlines for accusations of fat-shaming and the promotion of eating disorders. Juliette Virzi, The Mighty’s associate mental health editor, reviews episode 11 of “Insatiable” with the mental health community in mind.
Content warning: If you struggle with binge eating or other disordered eating behaviors, you might want to skip the first minute of episode 11, as it may be triggering.
Patty (Debby Ryan) is understandably upset because, during her birthday party, her mom took off, her best friend Nonnie (Kimmy Shields) “dumped” her and after outing Bob Armstrong (Dallas Roberts), he called her “ugly” on the inside. Patty’s response to this emotional upheaval is isolating herself and going on a week-long food binge to cope.
While it’s definitely true that emotionally-charged circumstances can trigger bingeing behavior, the shameful way “Insatiable” presents binge eating is harmful to people who struggle with binge eating.
In the first minute of episode 11, we see Patty eating junk food, with mountains upon mountains of junk food scattered around her, in the same position we left her at the end of episode 10. At the end of episode 10, we see Patty begin this binge by eating a sheet cake, a tradition Patty and Nonnie used to do together on her birthday, back when she was “Fatty Patty.” In this scene, the camera zooms in on Patty’s chewing, and the seemingly “out of control” way she eats the cake with both of her hands, smearing the frosting everywhere. The way this scene (and the subsequent bingeing scene at the start of episode 11) is presented, we are meant to see “Thin Patty” resorting to her “Fatty Patty” behaviors as indicative of her having no self-control and being downright repulsive.
This kind of representation is damaging to folks who struggle with binge eating because it reinforces the harmful stereotypes society believes about this behavior — that people who struggle with bingeing are “lazy,” “gross” and “lack self-control.”
The eating disorder community deserves better than what “Insatiable” is giving.
Mighty contributor Devanshi C. is familiar with the shame society associates with binge eating disorder (BED), a mental health issue she struggles with:
Even as I consider telling a friend from the past about my problems, I worry. I don’t want to tell them about my BED. Why am I so willing to talk about my anorexia and not my binge eating disorder? Maybe because I have seen an unbelievable number of people talk about their experience with anorexia. Maybe because, in school, we were only ever told about anorexia and bulimia. We were given entire slideshows on each one and yet BED was not even mentioned in passing.
Showing Patty binge eat this way isn’t a compassionate look into the pain of struggling with binge eating — it encourages shame by making it look disgusting and like “failure.” TV shows definitely shouldn’t shy away from depicting mental illnesses like binge eating disorder, but it must be done in a respectful and responsible way that doesn’t augment existing and pervasive shame.
Perhaps the most problematic part of this scene is that Patty is able to “snap out of it” when she sees that Drew Barrymore is coming to Atlanta. Once she sees this, she devotes herself to making amends with the people she hurt and devotes herself to becoming thin again. Like the show has done all season, it paints being thin as the ultimate goal. Because even though Thin Patty is still just as miserable as “Fatty Patty,” at least she’s thin, not the fat, lazy, bingeing person she was before.
As the episode progresses, we see Bob Armstrong (who I call Blonde Bob for differentiation purposes) struggle to come to terms with his newly public relationship with Bob Barnard A.K.A. “Hot Bob” (the show’s name for him, not mine) and sexual orientation. As we saw in the last episode, Coralee kicked him out, and we learn he’s been living with Hot Bob.
To clear the air about the whole situation, both Bobs make dinner for their children, Brick and Magnolia (who is now back from rehab, after her drug overdose three episodes ago). Brick lashes out at his father, Blonde Bob, and says while it’s fine that he’s gay, it’s not fine of him to break up two families. Brick storms out of the dinner, leaving Magnolia, Bob and Bob staring after him.
Blonde Bob goes looking for Brick, and ends up at his old house with Coralee. She informs him she plans on filing for divorce and tells him to “go be sexually confused in someone else’s kitchen.”
In her quest for making amends, Patty decides to try Nonnie first. When Nonnie refuses to answer her calls, she gets Choi to help her track Nonnie down. Patty stages a “run in” at the Weiner Taco (yes, stupid sexual jokes abound in this show) to ask Nonnie to reconsider being friends. When Patty presents Nonnie with tickets to see Drew Barrymore, Nonnie replies, “You really don’t get it, do you? I told you I needed a break, which means it’s up to me to decide when that break is over, not you.” Nonnie, you go girl. Assert your boundaries!
Patty sees Coralee enter Weiner Taco and order a significant amount of food. The woman at the register judges her for how much she was ordering, prompting Coralee to defend herself, saying it wasn’t just for her. She then sees Patty and pulls her over to eat the food with her. When they sit down, Coralee asks her to eat half of what she ordered, saying, “You’d be saving me from myself.” Again reinforcing the narrative that food is never nourishment, it’s the enemy and just an instrument of getting fat.
Coralee tells Patty she did her a favor by outing Bob. The two bond over this forgiveness and Patty ends up sharing that she wants to know what it feels like to be beautiful. Coralee protests and says she is beautiful, but Patty responds, “I got thin. I got a boyfriend. I got new friends, and I still feel like a loser.”
Rather than engaging with this body image dialogue in a helpful way, Coralee — an adult and older female figure Patty looks up to — immediately points her to a “weight loss expert.”
The next scene we find out the weight loss expert Coralee was referring to was her son, Brick, who frequently crash diets to get to a lower weight class in wrestling. Brick introduces Patty to a new and damaging weight loss strategy proudly proclaiming, “this next week is about sweating and starving.” He outfits Patty with a plastic bag for their runs and gives her harmful dieting advice.
I don’t know how show writers sat around a table and decided this was OK to include. Showcasing detrimental dieting techniques isn’t satire, it’s dangerous and could be incredibly triggering for someone in eating disorder recovery. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), including specifics about a weight loss plan can become “how-to” instructions for someone to follow. (Editor’s note: We’ve excluded the specifics to keep this review safe for people with eating disorders.)
On one of their runs, Brick and Patty see Christian’s car, confirming Patty’s suspicions that Christian is stalking her. Patty taps on his window and accuses him of being a stalker. Brick pulls him out of the car and starts punching him. Christian takes off in his car. Later when Patty returns home from her run, we see that Christian has left a small wrapped gift on her bed. Patty feels unsafe at home with Christian stalking her and her mom gone, so she goes to Brick’s to spend the night. Patty then asks him to go to the Drew Barrymore book signing. Brick responds, “sure, it’s a date.”
Magnolia and her dad Hot Bob arrange a meeting with Roxy to let her know he’s her father. Roxy immediately responds that they are not her family and criticizes Hot Bob for abandoning her — echoing the earlier theme of father abandonment in episode seven. Roxy leaves the meeting wanting nothing to do with Hot Bob.
Later when Hot Bob returns home, he finds Blonde Bob reminiscing on his broken marriage by looking through his wedding album. Blonde Bob tells Hot Bob he needs to let go and look forward to the future. The pair decides they need to do something to “shake off” the bad mood they are in, so Hot Bob takes Blonde Bob to a gay club. Hot Bob dances around shirtless and fancy-free, while Blonde Bob feels increasingly uncomfortable with the half-naked men and strobe lights all around him in the nightclub.
When they return home they decide that going to a gay club isn’t the best “gay activity” for them. Roxy shows up at Hot Bob’s house crying. The Bobs comfort her by offering to help her win Regionals. They become her pageant coaches and decide pageant coaching will be their “gay activity” to share.
The next person on Patty’s “making amends” list is Blonde Bob. When she goes to his office to apologize though, he gets angry at her for ruining his marriage and robbing him of the choice to “come out” on his own terms. He then tells her she freed him to be able to work with a real beauty queen who’s a winner. This is a big blow to Patty because, as we know from episode seven, she feels Blonde Bob abandoned her in favor of Roxy.
After this confrontation, Patty goes to Brick’s house where she’s been staying and finds whipped cream and cookie dough in the fridge. Before she is able to binge, Regina comes up behind her and scares her. Regina broke into Coralee’s house so she could leave her own business proposal for Coralee’s Tampazzle endeavor. Because let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to join a tampon tassel startup company?!
Inspired by Regina’s “do whatever it takes to win” mentality, Patty decides to “take Roxy out” so she can win Regionals. Described as being “delirious from sweat and laxatives,” Patty decides to steal the Weiner Taco van and kidnap Roxy. Patty disguises herself in the Weiner Taco mascot suit and waits outside the gym (called gymacide, because why not insensitively reference suicide, am I right?!) for Roxy to leave. While she’s waiting, she gets a call from Brick, who is at the Drew Barrymore book signing waiting for her. Patty says she forgot (because she decided winning Regionals was more important than Drew Barrymore) and Brick tells her Nonnie is at the signing too. Patty hangs up when she sees Roxy come out of the gym and just as she tasers Roxy (with the Taser gun Brick gave her to stay safe from Christian), she gets shot in the arm with a tranquilizer, knocking her unconscious.
Stray Observations and Future Questions
- Coralee meets with Blonde Bob’s father about Tampazzle. He has connections to investors and says he wants to help Coralee because, like her, his son humiliated him by being effeminate. He also decides to come out of retirement to represent her in the divorce.
Regina decides to squat in Patty’s house and finds the presents Christian left. She opens one and finds a bracelet with the initials, “WWDBD.” What does this mean? We will probably find out in the last episode.
Hot Bob arranges a meeting between him, Coralee and Blonde Bob to talk things out. Coralee says she is hurt because Blonde Bob made out with everything and she has nothing. Blonde Bob responds that she can have everything in the divorce, but Coralee says she wants him. She says she misses her husband and Blonde Bob says he misses his wife. Hot Bob believes he must break up with Blonde Bob because it’s what is best. The Bobs kiss each other goodbye for an awkwardly long amount of time in front of Coralee, and she decides it doesn’t make her jealous in the way she thought it would. She insinuates that she wants a part of it. It eventually devolves into Coralee kissing Hot Bob and in narration, Blonde Bob says, “this was either the best idea or the worst of my life.” Threesome alert!
I gave this episode one star for perpetuating existing shame around binge eating. Instead of using an opportunity to shed light on the seriousness and pain of this coping behavior, “Insatiable” simply highlighted the stigma that struggling with bingeing means you are fundamentally repulsive. As the show has done all season, “thin” continues to be painted as the ideal and “fat” as something no one would ever want to be. The show gave screen time to some really dangerous behaviors that people with eating disorders could be particularly vulnerable to seeing. The show writers seem to have no regard for the eating disorder community and the deep pain that can come from struggling with mental health disorders such as these.
- What’s your take on the way “Insatiable” represented binge eating? Was it harmful? Helpful in any way?
- How does the Bob/Bob/Coralee storyline serve the plot? Is it random or do you think there’s a greater purpose that will be revealed in the final episode?
Header image via Netflix