The girl can't help it
Netflix's controversial Insatiable is back by popular demand, and promises to be 'messier' than ever
After all the attention surrounding its first season, not all of which was positive, Netflix's oddly compelling darkly comic series Insatiable returned for a second season last week.
A little over a year after it first premiered on the streaming giant, Insatiable -- created by Lauren Gussis and based on the 2014 New York Times article "The Pageant King Of Alabama" by Jeff Chu -- is back with 10 brand new episodes. The show follows the roller-coaster life of a formerly bullied overweight teen who transforms into a slim stunner, enters the beauty pageant competition scene and begins to seek revenge on those who shamed and tormented her in the past.
Despite a generally hostile reception from critics, Insatiable found an audience across the globe, especially in Asian countries. Hence why the show chose to hold a press conference and fan meeting recently in Manila, the Philippines, with series leads Debby Ryan and Dallas Roberts.
Following the shocking and abrupt ending to the first season, we rejoin Insatiable with Patty Bladell (Debby Ryan) coming to terms with her past, battling her inner demons and pursuing her pageant dreams.
"I think that if you watched season one … we get to see Patty on this journey of really trying to find herself and see why she continues to make some misguided decisions," said Ryan. "I think in season two, you begin to see her become more self aware … more self assured.
"But she definitely starts to look more internally and learn more about herself and the relationships around her, what she wants and how she intends to get it."
Roberts returns as Bob Armstrong, a former pageant coach who sees Patty as his chance to return to the world of beauty pageantry and decides to take her under his wing.
"Certainly one of the things I love about Bob is that … he's kind of driven and insatiable. Nothing seems to slow him down," said Roberts. "The biggest factor is Patty and his continual sacrifices to stay in that relationship. He continues to be explored in season two, but I often refer to Bob as a high functioning sociopath in desperate situations -- that has not changed at all."
At the event, the two stars were also joined by Filipino pageant queen and actress Gloria Diaz, who makes a special guest appearance in the new season.
Diaz plays Gloria Reyes, a fierce talent manager and beauty-queen mentor. Because of her own background in pageantry -- she won the Miss Universe Crown in 1969 -- this wasn't much of stretch for her.
Insatiable Season 2. Tina Rowden/Netflix
"[Netflix] just messaged me and said that they wanted me to be in the show. At first I thought it was a mistake," Diaz recalled. "I knew nothing about the show when I was offered the role, so I started asking around from my daughters and nieces to get more information. And then I started watching it.
"Yeah, at first I thought it was going to be kind of like a teenybopper sort of show. And then as you go on … sex, violence and strong language. So now I said: 'This show is quite interesting!'."
Diaz puts her finger on what is central to the show's appeal. Despite presenting itself as a playful melodrama, Insatiable also shines a light on mental health, self-image, alcoholism and eating disorders.
"[Mental health] is very important. The show attacks a wide range of things, often satirically, but mental health is one of the crucial things that many of the characters are dealing with. It's very important to discuss it," said Roberts.
"In the show, we're not people who behave particularly well, you know? Like, hopefully the show is people that you love making decisions that maybe you wouldn't make in your own life. So I'd say the best thing you could learn from the show is not to behave like us!"
Ryan echoed these sentiments, saying that Patty is a good character study on how mental illness can affect a person's life.
"During season one, we saw that she had all of this kind of build up of damage and she was acting out. In season two, she doesn't receive the damage anymore, but she kind of begins to step into it," she said.
"Some of the decisions that I wish that she could change is basically in season one, episode one, when Bob says: 'Do you want to do beauty pageants?' I wish she said: 'No, I want to go into therapy. And I want to work through all of my confusion. And then I'll hit you back in six months.' And that would solve everything."
Despite being one of Netflix's most watched shows in 2018, the first season of Insatiable received a lot of negative reviews. Within days of its first trailer dropping in June of last year, there was a fierce backlash over its perceived fat-shaming, as well as sexual harassment and jokes on statutory rape. Many of those that did give Insatiable a chance were won over, however, and Roberts believes this will continue with the new season.
"I think the backlash to season 1 was primarily a reaction to the trailer. And I feel like everyone who gave it a shot and actually watched the show thought differently. The irony of that sort of backlash was that it was a judgement on something without really getting to know it, which I think is pretty much what the show is about," said Roberts. "Look, I've been [acting] for a long time and I don't mind [the comments], you know? I would much rather be in something that some people hate and a lot of people love than something that everyone went like: 'Well, that's just OK,' you know? And I feel like the ones who stuck with us will be rewarded for sure."
When asked about those who were initially put off watching Insatiable, but might now belatedly be considering checking it out, Ryan gave her thoughts on why it is worth the effort.
"Because it's wild. Our showrunner [Lauren Gussis] is very smart. She has been very honest about the damage, the things that she's gone through in terms of sexuality, in terms of disordered eating, in terms of public perception. And by design, She made the first season so enjoyable, that you just watch it, and you come to feel like: 'I don't know how I feel about that'," she said.
"The first season is that way. It's fun and messed up. It can also be a hilarious binge, it appeals to every part of you. And then season two, it goes even further in that direction. And it will make you wonder more and more. It touches on everything that you know about culture."