‘Insatiable’ creator claims that valid criticism of her show is ‘censorship’

President Trump meets Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in the Oval Office

CB alluded to the bad reviews for Netflix’s Insatiable the other day, when she was covering Debby Ryan’s child-stardom. Ryan is all grown up (sort of) now, and starring in this Netflix series about a teenage girl who is overweight and bullied incessantly. When someone punches her in the face and breaks her jaw, she has to have her jaw wired shut. She then loses weight and becomes “hot,” and then she seeks revenge on all of the bullies. Even from the trailer, this looks like an utter mess.

So, the reviews have been awful. The Cut compiled the most scathing reviews here – some of the words used: utter disaster, warranted backlash, obscenely cruel, a bloated mess and more. People are questioning Netflix for greenlighting this terrible series, and they’re questioning creator/writer and show runner Lauren Gussis for telling this particular story in this particular way. Well, Gussis had a response: to whine about how people were “censoring” her. You can read the full interview here at THR. This is the worst part:

THR: But does that help when the people around [Debby Ryan’s character] are treating her terribly if she’s fat? Shouldn’t the message be people should not treat people terribly?

Gussis: I think that is the message. I mean, look what happens when you treat her so badly. She turns into a really violent, angry person and that’s every action has an equal and opposite reaction, but I also think that in art, “should” is a very, very dangerous word. I think that if we try to tell people how they should tell their stories, if we try to silence them, then we are doing the opposite of what art needs to do, which is to spark conversation and I think we are, as a society, getting very close to the dangers of censorship. And I think that if we tell people, and artists specifically, that you can only tell a story in a certain way and you are only allowed to tell a story in a way that makes me feel comfortable, then we’re never offering ourselves an opportunity to grow and that artists have the right and the obligation to tell their own truths and not be told that they should tell it a certain way.

I have a long history of being told that “you’re too much,” physically or emotionally or spiritually. I’m too much. I’m too out of the box. Get back in the box. Do it the right way. Do it the way that makes everybody feel comfortable and that was related to my insides and my outsides. It was very important for me to express it in a way that I express it because I don’t think anybody should tell another person that they’re too much or they’re too big or they’re too small or they’re not enough. The feeling of being told that I’m too much led to a feeling of me feeling like not enough. And for me this is the show expressing I am exactly who I am. These characters are exactly who they are and I hope that the takeaway message from the show is whoever you are, you be that. Nobody’s too much. Nobody’s too little. Everybody’s a human being on a journey.

[From THR]

Gussis spent most of the interview talking about why she’s doing the series in her particular way, and what her rationale is, and I think the best argument she makes – out of the whole mess – is that she, as a female writer, shouldn’t be expected to tell the perfect story of the perfect overweight-to-slim teenage girl. Imperfect writers write imperfect characters, and women should be free to be imperfect and create imperfect characters. If she had ridden that rationale the entire way through, I would clap for her. But she didn’t. Instead, Gussis conflates (justifiable) criticism of her trainwreck show with “censorship.” Chica, you’re not being censored. People hate your show. You know how you have the right to develop these characters in your terrible show? That’s the same right that gives everybody else the chance to say that they loathe your storytelling.

President Trump meets Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in the Oval Office

Stills from Insatiable.

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50 Responses to “‘Insatiable’ creator claims that valid criticism of her show is ‘censorship’”

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  1. Jordana says:

    Insatiable has been my binge watch lately. I like it. It’s funny and weird. Why does everything have to be overanalyzed? A fat girl got skinny but that’s not the entire show.
    I just wish there was more Allysa Milano in it. I like her character.

    • Hope says:

      Me too! I just started watching it this weekend and I like that not everyone is perfect. She doesn’t just get skinny and suddenly all her problems are “fixed” and she has the perfect life she dreamed of.

      • Kris29 says:

        I’m enjoying the show. All the characters are awful but that’s the fun of it. And it’s called “insatiable”, reminding me of glottony and the various deadly sins. There’s a strange bit of spiritual attention thrown into the mix too. Everyone seems to be sad hypocrites looking for a bit of validation or redemption, maybe? Anyhoo. It has a slightly wicked bite to it. And it’s weird.

    • Steph says:

      Agreed. I liked it. And I’m a fatty. Lol! It has a message of skinny is not magic and pretty means nothing if you are ugly in the inside. . It had a Santa Clarita Diet vibe to it.

    • Ms says:

      I like it too. It’s pretty obviously a farce. You’re not supposed to relate to the characters and it’s not a “how to live” plot. It reminds me a lot of Drop Dead Gorgeous

      • JustCrimmles says:

        @MS that was my my thought, too. I’m enjoying Insatiable and Drop Dead Gorgeous is one of my favorite movies. I don’t get what all the fuss is over this show, but I’m not looking for it, either. It kind of reminds me of GCB, which I also liked.

      • Castle Toz says:

        I feel like it wants to be Drop Dead Gorgeous, but it falls so, so short of it. Parts of it are darkly funny, yes, but other parts are just kind of skeevy and gross.

    • Mylene says:

      I really like it to. Its funny and i like the cast. i don’t want to analyse this kind of serie. Its just good that’s it.

    • ikki says:

      tbh what came to mind after skimming this article is that bad publicity is still publicity. how many people are going to watch this show now out of curiosity?

  2. CooCooCatchoo says:

    I started watching “Insatiable” last Saturday and quit after the 3rd episode. It’s campy but the plot just drags on forever.
    Hulu’s “Harlots,” on the other hand, is sooo addictive. I recommend it if you’re looking for a great binge-watch.

    • Bettyrose says:

      I love Harlots! It has the same message about the horrors of a world in which women lack legal standing and bodily autonomy as HMT, but it’s a lot more fun to watch.

    • magnoliarose says:

      I love Harlots. I haven’t watched the 2nd Season but I love anything set in the 18th century. It is a fun saucy diverting show.

  3. Naddie says:

    I couldn’t pass the trailer. Then I went for opinions and other ladies said it’s just what it seems to be: another show mocking fat people.
    I also hate when they say it “has a message”, when you spend the whole damn time putting evil characters on a pedestal just to have a 5 minutes of a moral speech in the end. Don’t people ever wonder why characters like MIranda Priestly and Regina George are so overhyped, damn it.

    • Steph says:

      But it does have a message, she realized that being skinny didn’t make her happy. She still feels ugly, and people realized she was ugly inside when she was overweight and that didn’t change after she became skinny.

      • Naddie says:

        Through the show or just in the final episodes: (sorry, my interrogation button is sick). I might give it a try to see for myself because I didn’t know she was mean before getting thin, but from what I heard she starts to get everything after the weight loss, even though she was a crappy person. Still, this “looks -
        money-popularity dont’t make you happy” message doesn’t work when not handled properly.

  4. Nanny to the rescue says:

    “Imperfect writers write imperfect characters, and women should be free to be imperfect and create imperfect characters.”

    All writers are imperfect, there is no such thing as a perfect writer.
    Characters are ideally imperfect, unless you’re writing basic black&white fluff.
    That being said, don’t confuse imperfection with shyte. The first is desirable, the second is not. Based on the critics, your work is the latter.

  5. Lana says:

    It sounds fun I want to watch it

  6. Lisa says:

    I love Insatiable and bingewatched the entire season over the weekend. It was hilarious, slightly edgy, but frankly no worse than Heathers. People should stop being so sensitive and triggered. You don’t like the show or storylines or how characters are portrayed? Then don’t watch it.

    • Wasabi says:

      “People should stop being so sensitive and triggered.”

      Translation: Your life experience and pain are inconvenient for me. Shut up about it.

      And in the words of the great Hannah Gadsby: “When people tell me to stop being so sensitive, I feel a little like a nose being lectured by a fart. I am not the problem.” #Nanette

  7. SJhere says:

    Netflix is green lighting some real crap lately. I think they have a ton of hours to fill and are giving the Go! Just to claim they have new shows. Gotta fill airtime, ya know.

    I’m surprised at some of their original content shows.
    I make a point of not watching them.

    TVs still have OFF buttons. And, people have a right to say if in their opinion a show is lousy.
    This writer got paid. Not everybody likes the show. Deal with it.

    Btw, IMO, HBOs show Girls was a less talented ripoff of SaTC and Lena Dunham should out her $$ and herself lucky she ever got a job.

  8. sawshuh says:

    Did you watch the entire show? I’m not sure many critics did – or they’re out of touch with the audience that would watch it. It has a 13% tomatometer, but an 80% audience score. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/insatiable/s01

    It’s a satire of southern beauty pageants and the families who will do anything to win. Beyond that, it touches upon LGBTQ issues, fat-shaming, abortion, unhealthy relationships, etc. I’m a liberal in the south, but seeing all the criticism of this show makes me worry we’re destroying ourselves from within with excessive sensitivity.

  9. lucy2 says:

    I haven’t seen the show, but the reviews of it have turned me off from watching. But if people are watching and enjoying it, whatever.
    Have people boycotted Netflix and demanded they take down the show? Not that I’m aware of. Criticism is not censorship.

  10. Marty says:

    Criticism is censorship now? Or maybe she’s just a shitty writer with outdated ideas.

  11. holly hobby says:

    Honey, censorship is Netflix not running your shoddy show at all. Or they gathered all your film and scripts and burnt it in the garage. Did any of these people go to school at all? Did they learn anything about the law and how it works?

    People did not like the show. They are entitled to their opinion. Please get a grip.

  12. Steph says:

    The first 3 episodes are OK, then it gets pretty funny. She’s by no means mocking fat people. It’s actually about an awful person realizing the being skinny doesn’t solve her problems, that loves comes from within. The episode with the trans people was awesome as the episode about bisexuality. Honestly it doesn’t deserve the hate.

    • sawshuh says:

      Every character is deeply flawed and working on themselves. It just takes many episodes to establish that, so the first ones are more offensive, with less message than the later ones. Episode 8 is where it went off the rails and I loved it. The episode with the cake broke my heart. :(

  13. Mo' Comments Mo' Problems says:

    The show is…interesting. It does show a specific perspective–not everything is a happy-go-lucky story. What bothers me is the less than legal lusting by a teen for an adult. Again…shit like that happens in real life, but yuck to even see it being portrayed.

    Another thing…are straight southern men really that interested in appearance and every detail? In this show, a straight southern man works with other pageant contestants and works to develop Debby Ryan’s character as one.

  14. Jamie says:

    It’s kinda ironic that a woman who has written for, and produced, more than one television series (she was apparently a showrunner for Dexter too), is claiming censorship. Tell that to all the “out-of-the-box” writers who’ve never gotten anything picked up.

  15. Cidy says:

    As someone who struggles with body image and disordered eating this show is garbage and the message is basically that you dont have a voice until you’re thin and you cant be happy until your thin even if you get there by unhealthy means.

    • Ye says:

      But this show shows how she is a really terrible person who cant be happy, and that her becoming thin doesn’t make her a better person.

    • Lucy says:

      I’m sorry but I have had anorexia for 13 years, have just been released from inpatient, and I don’t find this show offensive or triggering. People are just jumping on the bandwagon without even watching it.

  16. BaBaDook says:

    The people telling others not to be “triggered” about this show are just rude, honestly. I’m glad the trailer for this show didn’t make you feel bad about yourself. I’m glad you don’t get offended by the sterotypical depictions of fat characters…but some of us do. Honestly, it hurts to see my body-type used as a lazy gag – something to make a character pathetic, or worthy of pity. Regardless of how insatiable turns out plotwise, the fact is this showrunner could have shown fat bodies in a different light but she didn’t. That’s pretty lame and Netflix could and should have done better. I thought we were past playing fatsuits for laughs?

  17. OriginalLala says:

    I watched it, it’s awful. just bad. Mean spirited and tone deaf? yes. But also it’s just bad TV!

  18. Veronica S. says:

    I’m going to be blunt, here – if your show’s point about weight culture involves the protagonist becoming skinny at one point, it’s fatphobic. Period, end of story. Because regardless of what actually goes on in the movie, it says to the viewer, “lol we know you actually don’t want a fat person, don’t worry, take this classically beautiful woman in preference.”

    You know what’s a good show dealing with body image issues? “My Mad Fat Diary.” Because the protagonist struggles with weight and depression, and it shows how that toxicity harms her and her family. She doesn’t get magically skinny. Her problems don’t magically go away. It’s a coming of age story about learning to be confidant and accepting yourself, and she has to learn to deal with her own problems while acknowledging that her friend’s issues are equally serious.

    OR if you want a darkly satirical take on this kind of revenge fantasy, read Fay Weldon’s “Life and Loves of a She Devil.” Now THAT is a vicious and biting take down of beauty culture and its effect on women.

    • Slowsnow says:

      I enjoy reading your comments here and I am not surprised about your point of view which is valid and compassionate.
      I don’t agree with it though because of tone – this is not a realistic show and deals with issues on a satyrical, dark way. I think misunderstanding tone is a real problem nowadays.
      Have you watched the show? It’s not one of your typical she-was-fat-but-now-is-skinny-and-gets-the-guy.
      There is no patronising story about her being overweight because the show is about a beautiful person and the power that is bestowed to beautiful people. They needed someone who wasn’t pretty or conventionally pretty – or southern pretty – so that the character suddenly got all the aforementioned power.
      Moreover, she is not that pretty – she is an idea of pretty that is very specific to pageants and a patriarchal view of little/teen-age girls.
      Actually I think it’s a brutal critique of all that world and shows a complexity that I wasn’t expecting.
      I haven’t watched the whole show but I am enjoying it so far.

    • Wasabi says:

      I loved my big fat diary! The show deals with some dark issues – self-harm for example – but is still very young and sweet. We get a protagonist who is a fat teenage girl, who is funny and smart, who has crushes and friends and dreams and is just a whole person.
      The only bad thing abut this show: it’s run is simply too short.

    • Lady D says:

      “I enjoy reading your comments here and I am not surprised about your point of view which is valid and compassionate.
      I too like reading what you have to say, Veronica S.

  19. Samigirl says:

    I love the show. Dark, satiric comedy is underappreciate (and oftentimes misunderstood) so often. I especially love seeing Christopher Gorham in his role.

  20. StellainNH says:

    That story line reminded me of a television movie years ago(1973)….”Girl Most Likely To..”. It starred Stockard Channing as an overweight ugly duckling who receives plastic surgery and kills off all who wronged her.

    I guess since it was so long ago, they felt that it was all right to recycle the story line.

    Remembering a movie from 1973–boy I’m getting old!

  21. Slowsnow says:

    I watched the first two episodes and it had some hints of Young Adult and Jennifer’s Body (which I loved). It’s dark and camp and over the top. Feels a bit outdated here and there (like a 90′s fantasy).

    It uses a sensitive issue as a narrative trigger. However, the film is not about being fat but about being beautiful versus being a good/bad person.

    Amy Schumer latest train wreck of a film is far more problematic than the two episodes I saw.

  22. tealily says:

    Yeah she’s “spiritually” too much for me. (WTF does that even mean?)

  23. Izzy says:

    I don’t care if the show is good or bad. TV critics criticizing your show is NOT censorship.

    Girl, take several seats.

    • Steph says:

      To be fair, people were calling on Netflix to boycott it based on the trailer. If they’d watch the show, the message is clear that your outsides don’t matter as much as the quality of person you are.

  24. Case says:

    It’s ridiculous that she’s calling criticism censorship.

    That said, no show or movie needs to be about characters who always do the right thing and treat each other how we “should” be treated. Stories are supposed to show us all sorts of different perspectives of “good” people, “bad” people, and everyone in between. Sometimes the point of the story is that the main character actually isn’t a good person at all. A lot of viewers don’t know how to process that narrative because they’re so used to blindly agreeing with/rooting for the protagonist. But that’s not always the story being told.

    I haven’t seen this show and don’t necessarily plan to watch it — this is just a topic that really gets to me. Stories are much more interesting, I think, when they subvert your expectations.

  25. I rarely comment but... says:

    I watched it, despite the end message, pretty much every episode made me feel awful about myself as a fat person. That being said, I don’t believe in censorship. Also, I think its important to work through our own insecurities and realize it is a work of fiction. To anyone else who struggled, hopefully you are a good person and fat can also be beautiful. Learning to love yourself is hard and I have my days also but it is a beautiful thing.

  26. Ye says:

    I’m on the second to last episode. I hadnt read any reviews until now. The show is silly and funny, very LGBT filled and I guess I have bad taste because I think its fun.

    Patty is mentally ill, from bullying and bad parenting. She isnt likeable but I dont think they are trying to portray her as such. Its fun and interesting the same way Crazy Ex Girlfriend is.

    They even say in the show that it doesnt matter if you are pretty on the outside if you are ugly on the inside.

  27. K says:

    It doesn’t offend me, none of the punches it throws actually land in that way… it’s just weird and garish. Lukewarm Ryan Murphy wannabe show. I bailed after two and a half episodes because there’s far too much GOOD tv to catch up with.

  28. Cay says:

    These “artists” who can’t take criticism are amazing to me. Did they never go to college? I had a university creative writing prof who destroyed me. He used to read fiction pieces while standing next to the writer and scribbling all over the paper making his comments. First time it happened to me, I cried, literally cried. By the time the class ended at the semester, I had learned not only how to take criticism but how to be a better writer.

    I read an interview with another “artist” (writer/director/producer) who was pissed about the horrible reviews about his movie. He called the reviewers horrible names, said they needed to get lives, said reviewers get paid to write bad reviews, said the lack of box office was because of the bad reviews (even though the viewer scores were just as bad as the professional reviewers). If they can’t take criticism, then they need to get a different job. This is a profession where every article, every screenplay, every direction is going to dissected and judged. If you aren’t up for that, try another occupation. In real life, not everyone gets a trophy.

  29. SJF says:

    People don’t remember but in 1973 Joan Rivers and Agnes Gallin wrote a TV movie for ABC called THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO… It starred Stockard Channing as an overweight girl who is bullied and shamed her entire life. She has an accident and wakes up in the hospital — thinner and — having had reconstructive surgery — more traditionally “beautiful.” Then she gets revenge on anyone whoever bullied her.

    In addition to the other criticism, the movie is a direct rip-off of a film from 45 years ago.