Many have already made up their minds about the new Netflix series Insatiable ahead of the show’s premiere today. Twitter mobs accused the show of fat-shaming based on its provocative trailer, and a Change.org petition to cancel the 12 episodes has garnered nearly 250,000 signatures. Now that the season is officially available to binge watch, you can confirm your worst suspicions: Insatiable is even more offensive than anyone imagined.
The main plotline of an overweight high school girl who slims down and then becomes a beauty pageant contestant isn’t the only aspect that will draw the ire of viewers. The male lead’s arc is about how he lost everything when he was falsely accused of molesting an underage pageant participant. Halfway through the season, the newly thin yet still insecure Patty (Get it? Because she used to be a “fatty”) gets a pep talk from a transgender woman who tells our protagonist to have no fear, she too was uncomfortable in a new body—basically comparing sex-reassignment surgery to losing weight. Another main character behaves flamboyantly, and late into the story, a “plot twist” reveals that he’s a closeted gay man, despite being happily married to a woman for years. As viewers are reminded, we should’ve seen this coming, because he was super effeminate!
One throwaway joke encapsulates everything wrong about Insatiable: The show’s sole mention of Judaism.
When Patty believes she is possessed by a demon (not nearly as exciting as it sounds), the local preacher assures her the best exorcist in the country, Father Schwartz, will be called in to help. “Schwartz?” she asks. “Oh yes,” replies the preacher, “He’s a Jew for Jesus. Converted.” It comes off as another failed punchline—at this point in the series, there have been many. But at the end of the episode, Father Schwartz actually appears, his dominant figure looming in the dark doorway. He then steps forward to reveal a nebby schlemazel played by Jon Lovitz. Patty’s friend suggests how the situation be handled, and in perhaps the most stereotypical Jewish voice ever, Lovitz says, “Oy, everybody’s an exorcist!” He spouts a couple more Yiddish phrases like, “That, bubbleh, is on you,” and exits the scene. Father Schwartz is never seen or mentioned again.
As far as Jewish jokes go, it’s pretty tame. No lines are crossed, and it doesn’t feel mean-spirited. The problem is that Insatiable hasn’t earned the right to crack it. This is a show so incredibly tone deaf, trying to cram token representation and topical issues into its narrative without having anything to add about them. There’s no commentary on the different lifestyle which Patty leads before and after she fits into a cute swimsuit. Instead, we get surface-level caricatures of losers, prom queens, LGBT folk, housewives, rednecks, Asians, and yes, Jews.
A show with absolutely nothing to say has created a lot of noise.
Elazar Abrahams is a former intern at Tablet, and will attend Yeshiva University after a gap year at Netiv Aryeh in Jerusalem.