A petition to cancel a Netflix series accused of "fatshaming" has reached over 100,000 signatures in just a few days.
Insatiable, about a high school girl called Patty (Debby Ryan) who is bullied because of her size but becomes popular after losing weight, received a wave of criticism after the first trailer for the series aired last week. Ryan appearing in a "fat suit" to show her character before the weight loss prompted part of the backlash.
The trailer showed how Patty loses weight over summer after an incident where she has to have her jaw wired shut. As she establishes herself as Queen Bee, she seeks revenge on her classmates for their previous treatment of her.
One critic wrote on Twitter: "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 and about what a crazy bitch she turns into. That's so lazy and pathetic."
"This pushes disordered eating AND the fact that you have to lose weight to be 'better'," another wrote. "Shame on everyone who was involved with this project."
A Change.org petition is now urging Netflix to cancel the series, with organiser Florence Given commenting: "For so long, the narrative has told women and young impressionable girls that in order to be popular, to have friends, to be desirable for the male gaze, and to some extent be a worthy human... that we must be thin.
"The toxicity of this series is bigger than just this one particular series. This is not an isolated case but part of a much larger problem that I can promise you every single woman has faced in her life, sitting somewhere on the scale of valuing their worth on their bodies, to be desirable objects for the male gaze.
"That is exactly what this series does. It perpetuates not only the toxicity of diet culture but the objectification of women's bodies."
The trailer was also criticised by experts who specialise in weight loss and eating disorders, including Adam Cox, a clinical hypnotherapist, who told The Independent that the show may have an especially negative effect on young people suffering from body image issues.
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"The series seems to be entirely based around negative connotations to do with weight, which is inherently harmful to anyone who has struggled with body issues," he said.
"While we've seen many shows and movies which encourage body positivity, unfortunately there are still some which aim to perpetuate already harmful stereotypes which do nothing to address these issues at best, and at worst knowingly pursue controversy to gain viewings.
"To do this when people's mental health may be compromised by such a tactic, especially young people, strikes me as irresponsible and dangerous."
Netflix have not yet responded to the petition, but Ryan was forced to defend the show on Twitter, saying she was "excited" to work on the show because [it] "addresses and confronts those ideas [of bodyshaming] through satire."
She added: "Twelve years into my own struggles with body image, struggles that took me in and out of terrible places I never want to go to again, things I choose every day to leave behind, I was drawn to this show's willingness to go to real places about how difficult and scary it can be to move through the world in a body, whether you're being praise or criticised for its size, and what it feels like to pray to be ignored because it's easier than being seen."
"Patty has the same brain, the same sense of humour and style, soul and heart, the same chucks, but felt like she didn't matter to anyone until she was thin... she undergoes a physical transformation, but it doesn't make her happy. We're not in the business of fatshaming. We're out to turn a sharp eye on broken, harmful systems that equate thinness with worth."
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