Insatiable – What happened to our appetite for makeover shows?

September 25, 2018

Shortly after my 19th birthday, I got dumped.

What followed, was a real-life example of life imitating art, as (in a misguided attempt to reinvent myself,) I shaved off half of my hair and dyed it red.

It’s a trope that most young women became familiar with before we could recognise it. That of the ‘life-changing makeover’. And with my newly shaven undercut, I marched into Debenhams and demanded the brightest lipsticks they had on offer.

From Mia in the Princess Diaries to Miss Congianilty, there are few problems that couldn’t be solved without the help of a mascara wielding man with an accent. Even on reality TV, an endless list of fashionable hosts will be found slating women for their bad taste and offering an array of products, clothes and badly lit fitting rooms to ‘guide them’ into better choices.

Without a doubt, it’s clear the UK has an appetite for ‘the makeover’ show in some form.  

So, why did Insaisable bomb? The Netflix show told a familiar story with a slight variant on the makeover trope. Fat girl, Patty (Debby Ryan in a fat suit) is ignored by all men, and after having her jaw wired shut over the summer, becomes beautiful. She seeks revenge on those who wronged her through pageantry.

Maybe ten years’ ago, this show would have had a cult following, because, in 2008, normal meant something different.

Ten years’ ago, user-generated content was in its infancy, we relied on journalists, beauty editors and TV to tell us what we should look like. Whilst nowadays, you can google cellulite and see it on most of the female population, it was previously only seen in a hoop of horror gracing the front page of Heat magazine.

But, in 2018, we expect more, and despite the guise of satire, Insatiable feels dated in the same way that neon tights and tiger striped fringes do. Too soon to be retro, to irrelevant to feel current.

But, are makeovers a good thing? Queer Eye has won both the hearts and minds of audiences on the very premise that I’m critiquing. But, Queer Eye is produced with the playfulness and joy that comes of feeling confident. Whilst Insatiable, a show where the protagonist had her jaw literally wired shut to stop her eating, feels cruel. A dig at young women for not starving themselves to success, popularity and romance.

Unlike makeovers, most of the changes we go through happen over time. Bad haircuts, like bad boyfriends, are part of figuring out exactly who you are. I loved my (quite frankly) alarming shade of red hair (though please note, I resented the undercut almost as soon as I stepped out of the hairdressers), but I clearly remember the despondence of realising that despite all of this, I would still be me. That despite a ridiculous haircut, I would not experience a never-ending stream of suitors or meteoric rise in success.

This sounds fairly obvious on reflection, but a small part of me had hoped that my ‘new look’ would bring about the other changes I so badly wanted. And just like my misguided attempt at being someone I wasn’t. It feels fair to say that I feel the same about Insatiable. Because, championing a narrative that women need to change how they look to see any change in their life is dangerous, misguided and, above all else downright lazy writing.

Changing up your style, because you want to, is an essential part of growing up. But, Insatiable demands that these changes only exist to please others. We get thin, to look better, rather than feel better, and confidence in yourself and who you is irrelevant.

Which is ironic in some ways. As irrelevant is the best word I can think of to describe Insatiable, and just like bad haircuts, this show belongs firmly in the past.

Please note: If you’re reading this fresh off a breakup, I recommend just buying a bag or bullet journal, they are a lot easier to part with than a large portion of your hair.

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2 Comments

  • Anca

    Your last comment is spot on! It’s easier to toss out a bullet journal than to wait for the hair to grow. I’ve never had the impulse to have a makeover after a break up, and those days are long gone now.

    October 3, 2018 at 11:11 am Reply
  • Nicole France

    I remember when I was 16 being dumped, and starting to bash the gym and dye my hair blonde! Now it’s five years on and I still have blonde hair but no longer go to the gym… Dammit. Great read Char xx

    October 3, 2018 at 11:18 am Reply
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