When the first trailer for Netflix’s new series Insatiable dropped in mid-July, critics accused the dark comedy created by Dexter alum Lauren Gussis of fat-shaming. Per the trailer, Patty (Debby Ryan) endures constant bullying because of her weight, only to seemingly gain revenge against her tormentors following a significant amount of weight loss. Over 200,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling for the show “to be cancelled,” and countless others have taken to social media to decry it as well. At the same time, Ryan and co-star Alyssa Milano, who plays the would-be socialite Coralee, have also been defending Insatiable online and in the press.
A week after the initial backlash, Metro spoke with Alyssa Milano about the outcry on social media and, given a few more days of reflection, whether her thoughts on the matter had changed.
Alyssa Milano talks Insatiable fat-shaming controversy
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"My initial reaction was, I never wanted to cause anybody any pain, and if the trailer did that to people, that was very hard for me," Alyssa Milano explains. "But the more I sat with it and really understood what was happening, the more I realized the reaction was a good indicator for how much shame hurts us. This is the place we're at right now in society, when it comes to shaming. This goes across the board. I think shame and shaming people about it is a big part of this, especially on social media, where it becomes very easy to have backlash in any capacity."
Milano strives to make clear how sympathetic she is to the complaints triggered by the trailer here, but she also emphasizes that it does not encapsulate or characterize the entire series.
"This show is about not judging someone or something upon first glance, and yet here was a minute and 40 seconds pulled from 12 hours of television that people were judging upon first glance," she says. "It’s about how appearances impact the interactions we have with each other, which is obviously not a new topic, since labels like these that have been pinned on us since the beginning of time. But critiquing something because of how it looks on the surface is exactly what this show is trying to shine a light on."
"Art at its very best is a conversation instigator," Milano continues, "and I think that this show is going to continue to be a conversation instigator. It touches on how we've all felt that we weren’t enough at certain points in our lives. Every single character on this show feels like they're not good enough at some point throughout the 12 episode arc, because of topics that cause pain. When we watch something, we bring our own experiences to whatever it is, which can cause further pain or trigger our trauma."
In conclusion, the 45-year-old actress and activist suggests that issues like fat-shaming are better discussed in the open than swept under the rug. "We have to be able to look at them," she says, "and what better way to look at them than through art? What better way to start a conversation than through a television show? To me, awareness and open discussion are really the only ways that we're going to eradicate shame."
At the Television Critics Association’s 2018 summer press tour this past weekend, Netflix’s vice president of original programming, Cindy Holland defended the series by saying that Gussis "felt very strongly about exploring these issues based on her own experiences, but satirically, in a very over the top way." However, while "the message of the show is that what is most important is you feel most comfortable," Holland admitted "fat-shaming is in the DNA of the show."
Whether Milano’s careful optimism about the Insatiable fat-shaming criticisms holds out remains to be seen, as there’s just under two weeks to go before the series premieres on Friday, August 10. What’s more, critics who have seen all or most of the advanced screeners provided cannot publicly talk about the them until just before the release date, thereby leaving the fat-shaming backlash to sit sans the proof (or otherwise) of Milano’s counterarguments.
Insatiable starring Dallas Roberts, Debby Ryan, Alyssa Milano and more premieres Friday, August 10, on Netflix.