Netflix's 'Insatiable' Season 1, Episode 2 Recap: 'Skinny Is Magic'
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. Lexie Manion, a writer in recovery from mental illness, reviews the second episode of “Insatiable” with the mental health community in mind.
The following is a review of the second episode of “Insatiable” and contains spoilers.
Content warning: This episode contains references to suicidal ideation, homophobia, eating disorders and sexual assault.
While one could misinterpret the unhealthy words and actions made by its characters as promoting mental illness, the way “Insatiable” pushes the envelope serves as a cautionary tale more than anything.
The second episode of “Insatiable” opens with Patty waking up on the first day of her senior year of high school. The night before, she attempted to get revenge on John, the formerly homeless man who called her a fatty and broke her jaw, by dousing him in alcohol and debating whether or not she should light him on fire. Unfortunately for Patty, she’s hungover and doesn’t remember what happened.
Patty also wakes up to a note from her mom, Angie, who will be gone for the next four days at an AA retreat in Atlanta. Angie leaves Patty with $20 for pizza and little else. While Patty seems “used to” her mom leaving abruptly without saying goodbye or where she is going, speaks volumes of how Patty has been taught to look for love in all the wrong places.
Children of addicts often are forced to be the adult in situations where the parent cannot function as one. While Patty does not seem too bothered by her mother’s note, Patty is ultimately left to fend for herself. Kids are resilient and capable; however, children need to be children. Patty has been forced into adulthood too early in many ways. What she really needs is guidance, love and support. She may realize this to some extent, which is why she clings to Bob Armstrong. With her mom out of the picture for the next few days, Patty plans on ditching school and visits Bob so they can get started with her beauty pageant coaching. Luckily, Bob tries to be a positive influence on Patty and encourages her to go to school. After a makeover, of course!
Before Bob helps Patty get ready for school, Patty has a flashback of a time at school she was bullied and had a donut grabbed out of her hand. She snaps out of the flashback and tells Bob she can’t go back to school. With an empathetic look, Bob looks at Patty and retrieves his high school yearbook from his desk. He was also fat in high school and lost weight. It seems like Bob has good intentions, though he feeds Patty dangerous messages like being skinny is “magic,” as if her new and “improved” body will solve her problems. Just yesterday, Bob was about to die by suicide, so clearly skinny doesn’t make everything better.
Following her makeover, Patty heads into school. When she was fat, Patty would get judgmental stares as classmates bullied and tormented her. In her thin body, Patty receives stares of admiration, as if she’s only beautiful and worthy when she presents herself in a thin body.
Seeing the stark difference between how poorly she was treated when fat compared to how she is treated now that she is thin, Patty daydreams about recreating herself. Patty sees “fat” as a social group, something equivalent to being a “jock,” or “popular.” It’s as if being fat means you have no worth — a cruel narrative that mirrors what society sometimes tells us.
Patty’s first day back at school abruptly changes when she finds out she may have murdered John. This episode takes us on a wild goose chase of Patty and Nonnie trying to figure out if Patty is a murderer.
Meanwhile, Alyssa Milano’s character, Coralee, aka Bob’s wife, is quite a character — working hard to protect her husband from the wrath of Regina, who wants to see Bob suffer. Coralee is similar to her husband, she wants to have the life of the Barnard’s, their archnemeses. She uses Regina’s weaknesses (her lack of education) to stop her from further blackmailing Bob.
Injustice is a major theme of “Insatiable.” When you are in your pain and see only your truth, it is hard to look outside and see other perspectives. When I was a teenager, I thought I was the only one struggling, which made me lash out more times than I am comfortable admitting. One could see my behaviors back then as manipulative, but at the same time, when you are in that place, you don’t see things clearly. It is easy to stew in anger, sadness and distress. It takes willingness, strength and vulnerability to try and do better.
The episode closes with John accusing Patty of trying to murder him, but Bob miraculously uncovers that John, in fact, lit himself on fire. Patty confronts John, who is laying in his hospital bed with serious burns from the fire. Patty starts explaining who she is and what John did to her, telling him he owes her an apology. Amused at her request, John says she should be thankful he punched her since her injury was what caused her weight loss. Fuming, Patty rebuts, “Skinny isn’t magic. It doesn’t take away all of the years that I got treated like shit.” John tells Patty to let it go. Patty goes on, “I want you to hurt like I hurt. You deserve it. I wish I had lit your ass on fire. I hope you drop fucking dead.”
As Patty’s sharp words leave her tongue, John’s heart began beating faster and faster until he has a heart attack and dies. Somehow, Patty feels no remorse and is satisfied in that moment. Will her taste for vengeance prove to be as insatiable as she thinks it is?
“Maybe skinny was magic,” she says. “I wonder what else I could do.”
Stray Observations and Future Questions
- Patty’s portrayal as a villain by other characters for when she was fat accurately depicts how we view skinny as “good” and fat as “bad.” A J.K. Rowling quote comes to mind, “I mean, is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive,’ ‘jealous,’ ‘shallow,’ ‘vain,’ ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’?”
- Even though Patty yearns to recreate herself, it seems as if “Fatty Patty” can’t be put to rest by everyone around her. It’s as if everyone around her wants her to suffer because they are suffering too.
- Equating thinness to true health is just as dangerous as believing health is equivalent to worth. Not to mention, shame never instigates meaningful change. Many people continue to gain or maintain weight because shame often turns to continued usage of negative behaviors, which in this case, is emotional eating. This idea is strongly emulated in “Insatiable.” Health does not always have a “look.” Even if someone appears unhealthy to us, we must take into account the many aspects make up someone’s health.
- As Patty breaks away from self-destruction, she begins targeting those around her. Trading one unhealthy behavior for another, even if it appears on the outside everything is better, will never be the answer.
The second episode of “Insatiable” continues to feel dark and dramatic. I am beginning to warm up to the idea of not completely judging the directions the creators went with these heavy topics. Watching Patty and Bob continue to struggle and life not magically getting better even though they believe skinny will solve everything is relevant to diet culture and those who think “quick fixes” can successfully contain and solve all problems. It seems Patty and Bob’s outlook may begin to shift in upcoming episodes as they learn being skinny cannot heal all wounds.
After watching the first two episodes of “Insatiable,” I hope the creators will continue to use these damaging assumptions about fat people to disprove that “just lose weight” or “just eat less” is the answer to every problem.
- How do you feel about the first two episodes of “Insatiable” compared to the trailer?
- Have you ever defeated your inner demons through short-term relief? What does short-term coping look like for you? Long-term?
Header image via Netflix.