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Netflix's 'Insatiable' Season 1, Episode 4 Recap: 'WMBS'

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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. Danielle Lowe, a writer in eating disorder recovery, reviews the fourth episode of “Insatiable” with the mental health community in mind.

Editor's Note

The following is a review of the fourth episode of “Insatiable” and contains spoilers.

Content warning: This episode contains plotlines that may be triggering for those with eating disorders or who are in recovery. 

Episode four starts with Patty and Bob finding out the pageant Patty was going to enter to qualify for Miss Magic Jesus was canceled. The Bobs and their wives decide to create their own pageant because apparently, it’s that easy. They make their pageant mother-daughter themed. Patty decides to enter with Coralee because she doesn’t get along with her biological mom and hopes this will further wedge a gap between Coralee and Bob’s marriage as Patty still has a thing for him.

Patty’s mom, Angie, comes back from an Alcoholics Anonymous retreat and hears about the pageant. She asks Patty why she isn’t entering with her. “Because you’ve been gone for days,” Patty replies angrily. OK. Hold up. Patty’s mom has spent the last week on an AA retreat, not a Hawaiian vacation.

We don’t know much about Patty’s relationship with her mom or how Angie’s alcoholism has affected her childhood. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say maybe Patty has tried really hard to support her or Angie refused help and Patty just had to separate herself. But honestly, her mom offers a good response: “I was taking care of me so I could take care of you and be a better mom.”

“Oh, great parenting. You left me with no way to reach you,” Patty replies, listing multiple important occasions her mom has missed out on. Patty makes a fair point, too, about her mother’s absenteeism. Angie has a responsibility as Patty’s mom and Patty is just a teenager.

The two of them seem to have different priorities. Patty’s mom feels the need to prioritize her mental health and Patty just wants her mom to be present. Both of these desires are valid.

This interaction speaks to another important mental health issue: Having a parent struggle with mental illness or addiction can put a real strain on the child and create a barrier in the parent-child relationship. I wonder if Patty is seeking any help to cope with her mom’s alcoholism. That’s a lot for one child to handle on her own. I’m starting to wonder if Patty’s infatuation with Bob has something to do with the lack of a parental figure in her life.

At back to school night, Magnolia decides the Bobs should co-host the pageant. Bob tells Patty to get some lunch. (I thought it was back to school NIGHT, but whatever.) “Go get something healthy to eat, like a salad,” he tells her and she promptly agrees.

Sigh. Granted, salads have nutritional value. All foods have some sort of nutritional value because they’re edible, but if someone suggested I eat something that’s a traditionally low caloric option when I was in my eating disorder, my disorder would have been STIRRED UP. Bob gets to decide what he puts in his body. not Patty’s. Since Patty doesn’t seem to have a medical reason to go on a diet, there’s no justification for Bob to instruct her what to eat.

This comment is especially damaging because of who Bob is to Patty and Patty’s complex relationship with food. Patty really cares about what Bob thinks. His comment further implies he values her because of her weight or continued weight loss. I don’t know, maybe she should not enter a contest that puts a huge pressure on appearance and instead do some soul searching about what it means to be living in a smaller body.

Insert another weirdly sexualized scene for a TV show meant for tweens/teens at Wiener Taco where Coralee and Patty’s mom meet. Patty’s mom decides to guilt Nonnie into entering the mother-daughter pageant with her by playing off the fact that Nonnie does not have a mom anymore. Wow! What a kind and healthy thing to say to your daughter’s best friend! I don’t see how this pairing could help Patty and her mom’s relationship at all.

Despite all of the drama — Dixie and Regina write “whore” on Patty and Coralee’s dresses in an attempt to sabotage them — the mother-daughter pageant goes fairly well. During the interview portion, Patty is asked what Coralee means to her and gives an interesting response:

I was always told, ‘Bladell women never win.’ So instead of having dreams, I ate them. Then I got skinny. But I still felt weighed down by who I was and where I came from. Then someone came along and saw something special in me… Coralee showed me that I’m not bound to my past and anything is possible.

I have mixed feelings about this short monologue. On one hand, Patty points out a common misconception that many people who want to lose weight believe  that you can start a new, better life when you lose weight. Patty notes that losing weight has not solved all of her problems. Losing weight did not solve Patty’s issues with her mom or her insecurities about her socio-economic status.

This is a turning point for Patty as she’s really only talked weight loss up until this point. It seems she’s beginning to think about whether weight loss really gave her what society promised her  total happiness.

Patty wins the pageant, qualifying her for Miss Magic Jesus. For a split second, I think this is her moment of redemption. Maybe she will say, “Fuck this!” and the show will turn into a discussion about fat stigma, thin privilege, cultivating positive body image and self-esteem. Nope, but at least after the pageant, Patty’s mom apologizes for her past actions and there’s a feeling of hope for their relationship.

Our Rating

I gave the episode three stars for the insightful moment Patty had at the end of the pageant about the real implications of weight loss on her overall happiness. I hope this will be further explored in future episodes.

Discussion Questions

  • Many people struggle with the “I’ll be happy when…” line of thinking. For Patty, she thought she would be happy when she lost weight. Have you engaged in this type of thinking? Did this thought process benefit you? Why or why not? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Previous Episode

Episode 3 Review: ‘Insatiable’ Shows Food in a Way People Who’ve Experience Disordered Eating Know to Be True

Next Episode

Episode 5 Review: ‘Insatiable’ Tackles Transgender Issues In a Self-Serving Way

Read all “Insatiable” reviews here.

Header image via Netflix.

Originally published: August 9, 2018
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