You’ve only got one life to live, so try not to waste it by watching Netflix’s new dark comedy, Insatiable. It’s the tale of Fatty Patty, played by Debby Ryan, an overweight, bullied teen trapped in the throes of a high school pecking order in which she is at the very bottom – that is, until she gets punched in the face, has her mouth wired shut, and shows up back at school looking like she just won America’s Next Top Model. However, the more Patty learns to wield her newfound sexy powers, the uglier she becomes on the inside.
While some are sticking to their guns and hailing the show as comical satire, more than 230,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org to get the show canceled on account of its body shaming messages, among other poor creative decisions – my favorite among them being Ryan’s laughably unrealistic fat suit.
While some might still find the show entertaining, I don’t find it a particularly productive way to take on themes such as impossible beauty standards, the treacherous navigation of teen angst, or the fronts we put on in our never-ending obsession in controlling the way the world perceives us. I just kept asking myself why I was still watching a show about such horrible people.
Like I said, you’ve got better things to do, like taking time to watch these mad decent coming of age shows instead.
My Mad Fat DiaryBased on the memoir by Rae Earl, My Mad Fat Diary is the story of Rae, an overweight 17-year-old who’s just been released from a psychiatric ward and now must navigate normalcy as best she can. Trapped at home with her infuriating mother, Rae embarks on the seemingly impossible task of making friends, getting boys to notice her, and overcoming her crippling self-hatred. Both touching and hilarious, the show tackles subjects like eating disorders, mental health, sex, weight, and friendship without judgment of its characters.
Chewing GumAfter years of living as a sheltered, religious virgin, Tracey Gordon is ready to make a change: This Beyoncé-loving 24-year-old is ready to get it on. It’s time to move on from her closeted fiancé for a street poet she meets in hopes that she can finally ditch her V-card and uninhibitedly experience the world. Hilarity ensues, however, as she works to maneuver through the choppy waters of her Christian family life and her blundering determination to shed herself of the chastity that’s weighing her down. With sharp wit and plenty of awkward sexual experiences, Chewing Gum manages to avoid cliches often used to portray impoverished characters as well as over-the-top stereotypes of Black women.
SkinsSex. Eating disorders. Drugs. Alcohol. Love. Parental approval. Gender. Grief. Abortion. Religion. The classic coming-age British television show Skins doesn’t flinch away from anything in this teen drama. Each generation of Skins characters offers a new slew of plots and characters thrown into soap-opera levels of drama – heads up, the first generation is definitely the best. As opposed to many shows like this that offer a glamorized version of what it means to be an adolescent, Skins veers from sugar-coating the experience. The cast was even close to the ages of the teenage characters they portrayed, while the show’s writers weren’t much older either.
FleabagFleabag is not a good person and she’s not sorry about it. OK, maybe a little bit, but no spoilers here. It’s hard not to love Fleabag, as she barely manages to keep her café running by the skin of her teeth, attempts to not get kicked out of a silent retreat with her sister, and barely bothers to hide a visceral hatred for her stepmother, all the while harboring a horrible secret that’s eating her from the inside. Fleabag is a breath of fresh air from the cagey expectation that heroines have to be inherently good – that you can genuinely care about a multi-dimensional, bad woman who maybe, deep down, wishes she could be better.
AtypicalSam Gardner isn’t your typical teenager, but he wants to try to be. At 18 years old, he wants to give dating a shot, despite his social struggles due to autism. As Sam grows to be more independent, his family struggles between wanting to be overprotective and giving him the space to learn – all of this on top of working out the new roles they will play in his life. This coming-of-age series follows the Gardner’s family dynamics with warmth and compassion as they bungle through the nuanced challenges of living with a loved one on the spectrum.
Everything SucksSet against the nostalgic backdrop of Boring, Oregon (which is actually a real place), this 1990s dramedy follows a group of teens who, you guessed it, are having a hard time growing up. A group of misfits at Boring High school, the AV club and drama club, decide to come together to make a movie. As one can expect, unrequited love and relationship drama ensues. Though it’s a little too similar to shows like Stranger Things and Freaks and Geeks, the redeeming quality of this show is its touching portrayal of the coming-out process of one of its characters.