For years Netflix has been many people’s go to for quality new shows and has delivered plenty of binge-worthy gems, such as Orange is the New Black, Queer Eye and Orphan Black. But sometimes their offerings are more miss than hit. A prime example of this is their newest show “Insatiable”, starring Disney alum Debby Ryan, and its causing a ton of controversy.
Debby stars as Patty, a high school student, who sets out to get revenge on fellow school-goers who have made her life hell. The problem many people have with this new addition to Netflix is that Patty is presented as a “former fat girl”, who is constantly bullied, attacked and degraded purely based off of her size. Patty loses the weight, and only then begins to receive respect from her peers.
When the first trailer for the show was released, many people expressed anger on Twitter over Patty’s presentation of someone whose worth was solely tied to her weight. People are so much more than their weight, a fact many shows have pickedup on, so here’s a suggestion of shows and films that promote body positive characters!
My Mad Fat Diary
My Mad Fat Diary, a series that aired on Channel 4 from 2013 until 2015, stars Sharon Rooney as Rae Earl, a teenager growing up in the 90’s. While Rae does struggle with her body image throughout the series, it is never presented that she is living a less fulfilled life because of her size.
Rae attends university, has a good group of friends and a boyfriend, all without the suggestion that she’d be happier if she was thinner. The programme deals with heavy issues, and presents Rae as a complex character, rather than focusing on her weight.
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is the gift that keeps on giving and that’s in large part due to the character of Titus. Kimmy’s room-mate and (albeit, reluctant) friend is unapologetically flamboyant and full of life. His large and in charge attitude gets him into hilarious scenarios as he pursues an acting career, without once being forced to conform to Hollywood ideals.
His character helps add to the overall sunny approach of the show, and very much pushes the messages of acceptance and self-love!
This musical, set in the 60’s is packed with songs you won’t be able to get out of your head. You might start watching it because you heard Zac Efron’s in it, but you’ll stay for the heart-warming message of the film: you can do anything if you put your mind to it!
Tracy Turnblad, the lead character of the film, dreams of becoming a dancer. She faces cruel taunts from her classmates and dancers on the local TV dance show over her weight, but she never lets that stop her. She follows her dreams with the support of her parents and friends, and doesn’t compromise who she is for it.
Hairspray also focuses on racial segregation that took place in America in the 50’s and 60’s and really drives home the message that everybody is deserving of love from themselves and others!
Perhaps one of the most iconic characters from the Pitch Perfect franchise is Fat Amy, played by Australian actress Rebel Wilson. She introduces herself as Fat Amy, reclaiming the word and refusing to see it as an insult. She is very much the centre of attention for the duration of the films, with her crude humour and extroverted personality and makes sure she is known for so much more than just being “Fat Amy”.
Mike and Molly
While Melissa McCarthy has been typecast before in roles that present her as the “funny fat friend”, Mike and Molly is not one of them. While the title characters do meet at Overeaters Anonymous, their weights are never presented as all of their worth.
At first glance, the show may seem like it will follow the route of pairing these characters together in order to go on a weight loss journey, but it quickly abandons that. As the show continues it becomes more about Mike and Molly’s love story and focuses on them navigating everyday life.
Unlike Insatiable, it shows that you don’t have to lose weight in order to have a happier life. Like the other shows/films listed before, it displays the message that everyone is deserving of love and respect, regardless of how they look.
So while Netflix’s latest offering seems to have missed the mark, it’s good to know that there are shows and films out there that try their best to stay away from harmful tropes and promote a positive message!
By Sarah Donnelly