When Netflix released its INSATIABLE trailer, the backlash was immediate. Thousands flocked to Twitter to express their disappointment in Netflix for producing a show that depicts weight loss as the cure-all to bullying and fat-shaming. Out of the wake following the trailer’s release, #NotYourBefore rose to the forefront, looking to combat the show’s fatphobia. Its creator, 22-year-old Jude Valentin, whose YouTube channel MermaidQueenJude frequently discusses issues on weight, mental health, and queer culture, finds a problem in more than just the show’s fat-shaming. Following the trailer’s release, Jude started the hashtag #NotYourBefore.

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Less than 24 hours after its inception, #NotYourBefore reached over 300,000 Twitter users and had been used over 3,000 times from all over the world, filling Twitter with body positive thoughts and thousands of photos of beautiful fat folks. Stemming from her original tweet thread that reads, “fat girls are not your before,” #NotYourBefore promotes body positivity, especially for those who don’t fit into Hollywood’s standard of beauty. I spoke with Jude to discuss INSATIABLE and the #NotYourBefore movement and compiled our discussion into the following interview.

#NotYourBefore creator, 22-year-old Jude Valentin
#NotYourBefore creator, 22-year-old Jude Valentin | Image: Jude Valentin

If you’re not familiar with Netflix’s INSATIABLE, the show follows “Fatty Patty,” played by Debby Ryan in a fat suit. While all her schoolmates are out hooking up, Patty finds herself marathoning shows at home with her best friend. The bullies at her school openly harass her, saying things like “Fatty Patty is huge,” and “Smells like bacon,” right in front of her. Then, after her jaw is wired shut, she goes through a dramatic weight loss. Suddenly, the power is in her hands, allowing Patty to be whoever she wants to be. But rather than continue living same as always, Patty decided to take revenge on those who hurt her.

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Patty sees her locker is vandalized with
Patty’s classmates are downright horrible. | Image: Netflix

Celeste Paed (CP): What was your initial reaction to seeing the INSATIABLE trailer? 

Jude Valentin: I think my initial reaction was panic, followed by anger and a deep sadness. I was at work, so I listened to it on my earbuds and immediately felt sick. I was concerned about the younger girls or the people who didn’t have as thick skin. 

CP: For those who don’t understand what is problematic with INSATIABLE, can you walk us through the things you find wrong with it? 

Jude Valentin: Okay, so let’s start with the premise. We have Patty, a fat girl who is shamed and ridiculed for her weight. We don’t know if anything is wrong with her personality, or if she’s annoying or if she’s inherently problematic. The only thing we know about her is that she’s fat and she’s a nerd. Now, Patty says that her life changed and got better after she lost the weight.

Now, she loses the weight because her jaw is wired shut. There is a huge misconception about fat people — and that misconception is that we choose to be fat, or that we choose this lifestyle. For a lot of us, that’s simply not the case. In fact, there is a certain weight that your body sits at naturally and if you go on a diet and lose the weight you will probably gain it all back. 

The second Patty loses weight, she all of a sudden gains a personality, friends, a romantic interests. All things that the western society deems as “success”. Patty was not able to become successful until she lost the weight. It is a typical makeover, the fat girl doesn’t ever win, situation. One of the classmates even yells, “Patty is hot now!” This is another problem because it deems hotness as the baseline level for respect. 

Patty and her best friend watch TV with snacks in Insatiable
INSATIABLE thinks binge-watching TV with your best friend is a bad thing in 2018. | Image: Netflix

If we backtrack a little, we know that Patty got punched in the jaw by a guy and this is turning out to be a good thing because Patty lost the weight that was apparently ruining her life. This trailer got so many things incorrect. In my own experience, fat hate and bias are never as loud and proud as it was in this trailer. It’s whispers and the popular girls betting their boyfriends to date you for fun. It’s people picking fights with you because they want you to cry. 

CP: Some people might say that there was no other way to portray Patty’s transformation without putting Debbie Ryan in a fat suit. The use of fat suits in general typically faces backlash. Why is that?

Jude Valentin: We need to stop telling stories about fat people turning skinny. If you need to tell that story, don’t. If you need a fatsuit to tell your story? Don’t. At the end of the day, the straight sized actor gets to take the fat suit off. They get to go home and live their lives and not have to deal with the harassment that fat people face on a daily basis. Fat suits are also something that are just not cool, they are typically used for comedic effect and fat people already have enough issues with our bodies being treated as a punchline or a joke. Hire fat actors and actresses. Normalize our bodies. Fat people didn’t just appear out of nowhere, they have always been around, it’s time for us to start acting like it. 

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CP: Alyssa Milano in a tweet said “We are not shaming Patty. We are addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from fat shaming. I hope that clears it up.” With fat shaming being a serious issue in many cultures, not just western ones, how do you feel about Milano’s statement about using comedy to address fat shaming?

Jude Valentin: I just think this is all wrong. I think that addressing fat shaming in a way that is perpetuating fat shaming is such a backward thing to do. I also think it was a way to save face. And, I think that there are many other ways to address fat shaming in our own lives and in the media. For starters, let’s stop writing stories about how fat people hate their lives and their bodies. Let’s give the fat girl the guy (or girl or person).

Let’s let the fat person have a happy ending. Believe it or not, there are fat people who are living their lives and are happy and are not concerned about a number on the scale that literally means nothing except the gravitational pull between you and the planet. 

CP: I saw one Twitter user said that the trailer seems to have good intentions, is that something you agree with?

Patty's thin reveal in the Insatiable trailer.
The new Patty. | Image: Netflix

Jude Valentin: Intention and execution are two different things. You want to combat fat shaming, eating disorders, bullying? Fine. But do it tactfully, and do it realistically. Fat girls don’t get punched in the jaw and magically have a six-pack. Fat girls get eating disorders and get applauded for losing weight while they’re dying inside.

Someone mentioned something about it bringing light to binge eating disorder, and let me tell you — uh, telling people who have eating disorders that getting their jaw wired shut is going to fix all their problems is so dangerous and problematic. There is just a lot to unpack when it comes to talking about marginalized identities and creating stories about those identities without those voices in the room. 

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CP: The only other mainstream show at the moment with the main character whose story follows their weight explicitly is THIS IS US’s, Kate Pearson. And now with INSATIABLE’s Patty, what impact do you think this might have on viewers who struggle with their weight, especially with younger viewers?

Jude Valentin: I’ve been dieting for more than a decade. I started my first diet when I was 10. I’m turning 22 in less than a month. That’s 12 years of dieting. These diets? They turned into an eating disorder, a pretty drastic one that no one even noticed I had. This media that condemns and shames fat bodies only contributes to the cycle of us abusing our bodies. We are fed day in and day out that we’re not good enough if we’re not a size 4 or a size 6 at the maximum.

Younger viewers don’t have thick enough skin to consume content like this without it affecting them. Your brain doesn’t really stop developing until your 20s. What happens to those viewers when they don’t have access to the internet or don’t have access to people like Meghan Tonjes or fatgirlflow or any of the other plus-sized/fat activists? We are putting our children in danger, and that’s my biggest fear. That this next generation is going to keep having eating disorders and hating their bodies. 

CP: The #NotYourBefore hashtag has hundreds of tweets. After seeing the INSATIABLE trailer, what inspired you to start #NotYourBefore?

Jude Valentin: #NotYourBefore was actually inspired by my initial thread. My thread began with “fat girls are not your before,” and it is a sentiment that I have shared before. Once I saw the tweet pick up, I immediately wanted to do a hashtag. I think hashtags are fun and inspiring and can be a place of community when stuff goes south. And that’s exactly what it’s been! It’s been wonderful to see so many plus sized and fat babes just loving themselves and their bodies and finding a community. It’s what this is all about. I do this for more than just me, it’s never been about just me. 

CP: A petition was created almost immediately following the trailer to have the show canceled. As of today, it as over 230,000 signatures. Do you agree with the petition? What do you hope Netflix will take away from the responses to the INSATIABLE trailer? 

Jude Valentin: I think that we need to understand that media does not exist in a vacuum. I agree with the petition because we already have enough problematic fat media that we don’t need to be adding more to the mix. The reasoning behind the show and the execution are like two different things. If you wanted to fight fat bias and fat hate and bullying and all of those things… Firstly, hire fat writers. Secondly, there are just more tactful ways of doing this than doing a weird before and after plot. Why can’t the fat girl be the murderess?

I hope that Netflix finally starts to realize that the media is important and it has influence and power. Your media that you create and consume is going to impact people whether you like it or not, and the fact of the matter is that I don’t think Netflix particularly cares? They’ve gotten backlash before for 13 REASONS WHY, seasons 1 and 2, and they’re continuing to put out media that is not only problematic but is inherently harmful and dangerous to younger audience members. 

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CP: If you could speak to Netflix directly, what would you say to them?

Jude Valentin: You have the power to be revolutionary, and you have in the past. It is what made you one of the best platforms. Do not take what made you the best and let it be your demise. You have the power to uplift and support stories that have never been told before. There are so many people who are subscribed to your platform. Your platform has power. The media you stand behind matters. I hope that moving forward you decide to listen to your audience and produce content that is less about shock value and more about fostering conversations about marginalized identities instead of using those identities for laughs. 

Patty observes her classmates in Insatiable
Patty thinks being skinny means she can finally be smart. Um, what? | Image: Netflix

CP: Is there anything you want to say to those reading this who have struggled with their weight or with eating disorders who feel insecure or uncomfortable after watching the INSATIABLE trailer? 

Jude Valentin: You are valid in your emotions and your anger. You are valid in the way that you feel right now. But you’re worth? Has nothing to do with your physical appearance. You are worth so much more and you have the power to pick the media that you are consuming. Find people who look like you on the internet, connect with them, follow them. Make your timeline a beautiful array of bodies, it will make you love yourself more.

Focus on what makes you special and important, and if you think there’s nothing there, look harder. You are stronger than diet culture, you are stronger than all of the people who want to tell you that you are wrong, that your body is wrong. You do not have to watch this show, and it’s okay if you don’t ever watch it. And, you have the power to choose the life you want to live, and it doesn’t have to involve weight loss. I promise that there is a life outside of wanting to be skinny. 

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INSATIABLE and the impact of #NotYourBefore

INSATIABLE dropped last Friday and reviews have been popping up left and right. Unsurprisingly, the series is turning out to be even worse than the trailer initially hinted. In fact, they’re mostly negative. Jude posted her own review of the series on her YouTube channel (which you can watch here) and found the show poorly written with a lot of harmful stereotypes.

The one good thing that came out of INSATIABLE is the discussions of fat representation in media. In a world where people who do not fit Hollywood’s standard of beauty are ostracized, #NotYourBefore is a much-needed dose of positivity. But more than that, #NotYourBefore looks to normalize depictions of fat folks and fat stories without pushing harmful stereotypes seen in shows like INSATIABLE.

Which is crazy considering just days after the release of the INSATIABLE trailer, Netflix also dropped a trailer for SIERRA BURGESS IS A LOSER, which follows a teen who isn’t a size 2 but is given a moving story that focuses on more than just her weight. With talks of representation in Hollywood happening across the board in 2018, hopefully, #NotYourBefore aids in bringing more positive stories about fat folks in the US.

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Will you be watching INSATIABLE? Let us know in the comments!

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Featured image via Netflix.

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