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New TV series 'Insatiable' is accused of 'fat-shaming' with 'toxic' message

Does this show send a "toxic" message?
The new Netflix series "Insatiable" has sparked controversy online.
Debby Ryan plays the lead character, Patty, in \"Insatiable.\"Netflix
/ Source: TODAY

The new Netflix series “Insatiable” won't be released until August, but the first trailer for the show is already generating plenty of debate.

“Insatiable” tells the story of Patty (played by Debby Ryan), a high school student who is bullied and ignored because of her size. But after she spends the summer with her jaw wired shut because of an injury, she drops a dramatic amount of weight.

When Patty returns to school, she is suddenly thin and conventionally “hot” — and she’s determined to exact revenge on everyone who once mistreated her.

Dallas Roberts and Debby Ryan in Insatiable
The show, which will be released Aug. 10, is already sparking plenty of debate. Netflix

Many people are accusing the show of fat-shaming and promoting unhealthy stereotypes. Some say the show perpetuates a “toxic” message because Patty only finds a sense of self-worth and empowerment once she becomes thin.

“It's basically saying that in order to be confident, you have to lose weight,” Kate Lopez, 24, who wrote a powerful Twitter thread about the show, told TODAY Style in an email. “It's really a toxic mindset, especially since we have so many people that struggle with their bodies.

Debby Ryan in Insatiable
Debby Ryan in a scene from "Insatiable"Netflix

“I feel like this would have made for (a) better story if you used a plus-sized girl to begin with, didn't show her dropping weight to gain confidence and come out on top and showed her rising above and overcoming her bullies,” Lopez added.

Many others on Twitter agreed, including actress Jameela Jamil, who stars in NBC’s “The Good Place.”

And there were plenty of biting, sarcastic critiques of the show’s premise.

Others took issue with the fact that actress Debby Ryan wore a fat suit to portray the overweight version of Patty, calling it a demeaning trope.

“You have a chance to make creative, engaging, original content from fat people about fat people's lives and you choose to ... put a skinny person in a fat suit and make jokes about how sad her life is,” one woman wrote on Twitter. “That’s so lazy and pathetic.”

Still others objected to the “revenge” premise of the show, saying it's dangerous to suggest that victims of bullying should seek brutal payback against their bullies.

A spokesperson for Netflix declined to comment on the controversy surrounding the show, but directed TODAY Style to recent statements made in defense of the series by writer Lauren Gussis and stars Ryan and Alyssa Milano.

Milano — who plays Coralee, the wife of Patty’s beauty pageant coach — defended the show on Twitter.

And while lead actress Ryan didn’t openly address the controversy on social media, she shared an excerpt of a recent Teen Vogue article that had an alternative interpretation of the show's premise.

In the section Ryan highlighted, writer Gabe Bergado suggests that “Insatiable” is actually a critique of society’s “warped beauty standards,” and that the real joke is on Patty’s shallow classmates who only notice her once she becomes thin.

Dallas Roberts and Debby Ryan in Insatiable
Dallas Roberts appears as the main character's beauty pageant coach in the new Netflix series. Netflix

Gussis, the show’s main writer, said that “Insatiable” is partly based on her own experiences, and that we are always meant to be laughing with, not at, Patty.

"This is my expression of my own process. My own pain,” she told the magazine. “And so I would never mock myself in a way that wasn't loving.”

“Insatiable” comes out on August 10, and some Twitter users urged people to withhold judgment until seeing more of the series.

But others will most likely skip the show when it's released. Lopez, who has been vocal about the show’s “problematic” premise from the beginning, has a message for the creators of “Insatiable.”

“I'd like to say to them that fat people are not a plot device,” she told TODAY. “We are actual humans with real life experiences. Being fat and successful (and) happy are not mutually exclusive. While they may have thought they were going about things in the right way, they definitely weren't, and I feel they should pull the project and re-evaluate it before releasing it.”