Netflix's 'Insatiable' Season 1, Episode 5 Recap: 'Bikinis and Bitches'
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. Sarah Schuster, The Mighty’s mental health editor, reviews the fifth episode of “Insatiable” with the mental health community in mind.
The following is a review of the fifth episode of “Insatiable” and contains spoilers.
Content warning: This episode contains references to disordered eating that may be triggering to people with or in recovery from eating disorders.
Patty looks at herself in the mirror and plays with her clothes. In a voiceover, she tells us that usually when she looks into a mirror, she can only focus on her flaws. How her stomach isn’t “flat enough.” Her thighs aren’t “thin enough.” Now, because of her pageant goals, she has something else to focus on.
That same morning, her pageant dreams come to a halt when everyone receives a picture of Dixie Sinclair’s “hoo-ha” — as they call it — from Patty’s phone. Because of this, she gets disqualified from Miss Magic Jesus for “cyberbullying.” Of course, Patty didn’t send the pictures — somebody hacked her phone.
While Bob is getting ready in the morning, he finds a note from his wife, Coralee, with the necklace that proves he cheated on her. The note says Patty gave her the necklace, and that she needs some space. Bob (understandably) is pissed and goes to confront Patty at school. Patty explains she was just trying to hurt Coralee because she blew her off after they won the pageant. “I wanted her to feel as bad as I did, but I didn’t think about how it would affect you,” she tells him.
Meanwhile, Dixie tells Magnolia her boyfriend, Brick, was the one who slept with Dixie’s mom Regina, so Magnolia confronts Brick and breaks up with him.
Patty and Brick run into each other, and in a sweet move, Brick apologizes for blowing her off and gives her a hug. He explains his dad is too caught up in pageants to pay attention to him, and that he doesn’t even go to his wrestling matches even though Brick is number one in his division. He also says he volunteers at the LGBTQ center — which is relevant because after the naked picture of Dixie got around, everyone thinks Patty is gay.
Then, of course, someone writes “Muff Diver” on her locker. Bullies waste no time here, and apparently have plenty of white paint on hand at all times?
Back at Bob’s office, Christian — the bad boy who flirts with Patty in an earlier episode — needs some legal advice. The police found drugs in his car, and Christian’s mom wants Bob to represent him. When Christian leaves the room, though, his mom asks Bob to throw the case. Even though Christian claims he’s holding drugs for Magnolia, she knows Christian is actually a drug dealer and thinks some jail time would do him good. Bob agrees to throw the case because Christian’s mom donates to Coralee’s organization and Bob will do anything to get back into Coralee’s good graces.
Back at school, Magnolia gives Patty advice about how to get back into the pageant. The only reason she’s helping her is to get back at her dad — if Magnolia loses, she might be able to take a break from pageants. She asks Patty about her platform, and Patty answers that it’s about “being fat and then not being fat.” (Great.) Naturally, Magnolia suggests they raise money for eating and body dysmorphic disorder awareness. Because “being fat and then not being fat” is basically the same thing as having an eating disorder, right?
These moments (when the show is weakly trying to make a point) highlight “Insatiable’s” fatal flaw — the satire just isn’t good enough. Considering there is still so much misinformation about eating disorders, and considering the sketchy way Patty went from “fat” to the size of the average thin actress in Hollywood, bringing up eating disorders now is honestly insulting.
They decide to throw a bikini dog wash to raise money for the Northern Georgia Eating Disorder Recovery Clinic. Nonnie points out it’s not great to throw a bikini event to raise eating disorder awareness, but of course, no one listens.
To prepare for the bikini dog wash, Patty tries on bathing suits. She’s crying in the dressing room, and here, I can’t lie — I could definitely relate. I think most women of all sizes can relate to looking at yourself in the mirror and hating everything you see. Even though she lost weight, she feels like she has to lose “like 100 pounds” before she can look good in a bikini. Some of her negative self-talk I can recognize from moments in my own head: “I am fat.” “I am disgusting.” “I don’t deserve to live.” She also says she’s both ugly on the outside and on the inside because she hurt Bob and she hurt Nonnie.
Nonnie’s a good friend and comforts her. She tells her she’s always been beautiful, even before she lost the weight, and convinces her to buy the bikini. Losing weight hasn’t made Patty confident or happy, and in a good faith reading, one could say the lesson here is that our bodies don’t define us, happiness comes from within, blah blah.
Any moment like this though, for me, is tainted by the image of Debby Ryan in a fat suit. At the end of the day, whatever Patty learns, she is learning to love her thin body. Her body that “passes” based on society’s conventional beauty ideals. And while her insecurities are still valid no matter what body she’s in, a plot that preaches, “See, everyone is insecure! Your outsides don’t matter!” erases the thin privilege she now possesses and gives off a yucky “all lives matter” vibe. Fat Patty is simply a plot device, and she will never get a chance to figure her shit out and learn to love her body.
Meanwhile, Bob makes moves to throw Christian’s case. Although Bob Barnard, who of course is the prosecutor, tells him he’s willing to settle for a fine, Bob tells Barnard his daughter, Magnolia, is one of Christian’s customers. This changes his mind, and Barnard decides to pursue jail time in line with Bob’s plan.
During this meeting, Bob finds out Coralee reached out to Barnard when she left. This, of course, makes Bob furious, and he reacts by reaching out to Patty to continue their pageant training.
After talking to Patty, and still brewing from the fact that his wife reached out to his arch-nemesis, Bob changes his mind about throwing Christian’s case. If he throws the case and gets Christian jail time, he’ll be doing Coralee a favor — but, if he keeps Christian out of jail, Christian will help them find out who hacked Patty’s phone. Bob chooses Patty.
In the end though, even after Bob helps Christian avoid jail time, Christian claims he can’t figure out who hacked Patty’s phone. Bob accuses him of tricking them and Christian responds, “Maybe you shouldn’t have trusted a drug dealer.”
Of course, because the plot must move forward, they figure out Dixie’s mom, Regina Sinclair, convinced her cellmate in jail to hack Patty’s phone. Bob gives this cellmate a makeover so she’ll turn on Regina. Because makeovers are the answer to everything, right? Now they have proof someone hacked Patty’s phone and she can do the pageant.
This brings us to the dog wash. Dixie (who is the worst) brings meat-infused “tanning” oil. When the girls spray themselves, the dogs go wild, and the people who were helping end up abandoning the charity event. Brick, who we can see has a soft spot for Patty (ahem… now that she’s thin), helps out by calling his friends from the LGBTQ center. They show up and take over the dog wash, saving the day.
There is a sweet moment when Nonnie asks a gay woman how she knew she was gay. They have a genuine conversation, and it’s a nice break from the nonsense… if only for a second.
It didn’t take long for the show to make me uncomfortable again. Patty has a conversation with a trans woman — and I’d love to hear a trans person’s take on this. Patty is in her bikini looking at herself in the mirror, clearly critical of what she sees. A trans woman comes out and bonds with her. She says, out of anyone, she knows what it’s like to be uncomfortable in her own skin. “I used to be fat,” Patty says to the woman. “I used to be a guy,” the woman replies.
The seemingly “nice” conversation has weird and potentially problematic undertones. I’ve heard people who are transgender describe feeling like they’re in the “wrong” body and the show seems to be implying that the trans experience is similar to Patty’s own journey.
But fat people were not born into the “wrong body.” Sure, sometimes people have a disordered relationships with food that can make them feel unwell in their body. Sure, hating your body is really common, and I’m sure people often wish they had another one. But for people who are trans, transitioning can be a way to embrace their identity — to become who they really are. Wanting to be thinner isn’t embracing a true identity. Patty has the right to feel uncomfortable in her body, but to imply her transformation was in anyway similar to a transgender person’s transformation feels really insulting to me. Even though everyone has the right to feel comfortable in their body, the overall point seems to be based on a false equivalence.
And the worst thing? In the end, Patty is the one who convinces the trans woman to take a chance and embrace her body. Just like “Fat Patty” existed to move the plot along, here we see a trans person used in a similar way.
At the end of the episode, Brick asks her on a date. They kiss, and Magnolia sees. She’s pissed, and something tells me she won’t be interested in helping Patty with the pageant anymore.
Although this episode contained sweet moments, namely the ones that involved Nonnie, many of the “points” it tried to make felt forced. Even when I did attempt to understand what exactly the show was trying to say, I don’t like what I discovered. The scene where Patty talks to the trans person was especially weird for me and the assumption that a fat person’s “before” body is similar to a trans person’s before body made it super clear to me that despite what it claims, “Insatiable” still considers Patty’s fat body to be worse or “wrong.” I don’t know what message this sends to fat people, but it certainly doesn’t seem like a positive one.
- If you’re a trans person, how do you feel about the scene where Patty talks to the trans woman? What feelings did it bring up, and what was your interpretation? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
- If you can relate to Patty crying in the dressing room, what would you want her to know? What would you need to hear in rough body image moments?
Episode 4 Review: ‘Insatiable’ Shows How Having a Neglectful Mom Can Affect Your Mental Health as an Adult
Header image via Netflix.