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Insatiable’s throuple storyline is its primary meaningful satire

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Spoilers for Netflix’s Insatiable lie ahead.

There’s a lot I really don’t like about Insatiable. But when it comes to the will-they-won’t-they throuple of three major characters… I am surprisingly on board.

The campy teen series proved it was borderline incapable of handling sensitive material throughout its first season and its ham-fisted approach to sexuality based narratives was no exception. (I mean, come on. Nonnie’s coming out story was an awkward, clichéd mess.)  

That being said, I give creator Lauren Gussis major props for writing a polyamorous relationship into Season 1’s final episodes. When it comes to mainstream storytelling, multiple partner relationships are too often left out or misrepresented. Insatiable explores the topic of polyamorous romance imperfectly, but deftly enough to add important representation to current conversation.

Here’s the TL;DR version of their non-confrontational love triangle: The show’s premiere throuple includes Bob Bernhard, Bob Armstrong, and Bob Armstrong’s wife Coralee. Yes, Bob, Bob, and Coralee. Or, as a like to call them: Boboralob. (Pronounced like “Bob or a” mid-length, trendy haircut.)

How Coralee found Bob A.

The long-standing married couple found each other through a gardening gig. Love at first sight, these two are a pretty superb pairing… well, right up until Coralee discovers Bob is cheating on her with Bob.

How Bob A. found Bob B.

The two got together following a passionate bathroom love declaration. As teenagers, Bob B. and Bob A. used to be friends before growing apart. Bob B. explains that coming to terms with his sexuality meant pushing his friend (whom he was attracted to) away. But, now it’s game on.

How Bob B. found Coralee

When Coralee comes back to Bob A. nearly divorcing over his infidelity, she and Bob B. attempt to force Bob A. to choose between them. But when it is clear Bob A. loves them equally, Coralee and Bob B.’s previously subtle attraction for each other arrives front and center. Just like that, you have: Boboralob.

Tragically, this ship isn’t built to last. Coralee and Bob A. excitedly plan the logistics of their budding, three-person romance, but Bob B. unexpectedly breaks up with them. He explains, “I didn’t agree to a relationship. I just thought the three of us would have sex sometimes so she wouldn’t feel left out.” 

Breaking down the breakup

Whether Bob B.’s misunderstanding of his partners’ intentions is in keeping with his complicated relationship to his own sexuality, or an indication that Insatiable‘s creators weren’t quite ready to tackle this topic is debatable. In a series review, The Muse points out, “[Bob A.] goes through a queer sexual awakening, forming and then dissolving a throuple—the rise and fall of which is so quick, it’s unclear whether it’s meant to mock fluid sexuality.”

While I choose to believe this instance of polyamorous representation does more good than bad, I agree its brevity invites misreadings. A number of poly Insatiable fans have voiced their love of the Boboralob relationship and the wake of chaos it brings to the show’s finale. 

However, plenty of other viewers seem to mock the perceived zany nature of throuples, including the romance, in lists of “wacky Insatiable plot points,” alongside wiener tacos and bikini dog washes. If Insatiable‘s creators were taking a stab at genuine diverse representation, some of their viewers seem to be missing the point.

This apparent viewer/creator disconnect highlights a major flaw in the controversial show’s primary defense. Can a story reinforce negative stereotypes even when creators tell the audience it’s satire? 

The short answer: hell yes. 

Insatiable‘s representation of multiple partner love gives me hope for its future narratives.

Successful satirization “demands critical reflection on the part of the audience.” Key word: demands. Insatiable rarely fails to capitalize on the flashy and shocking sides of its hot-button narratives, but it regularly misses out on opportunities to invite viewer contemplation. (See its brush with bi erasure and uneven meditation on body positivity.) 

Insatiable has received hugely mixed reviews, in part, due to mismanagement of its shocking to meaningful screen time ratio. With twelve hours of plot, this show is sometimes bullying and other times satire—differentiated mainly by the presence of opportunities for audience reflection.

In the case of Boboralob, I think Insatiable manages to sneak in just enough consideration to keep the representation and surrounding drama in the camp of worthwhile satire for most, but not all viewers.

During the season finale, Bob A. speaks about his poly relationship (at this point still intact), explaining how embracing his identity as a poly bisexual man makes him feel “loved completely” and fully “satisfied.” This tender moment is what sold me on the trio’s romance and is why I choose to support it.

While Insatiable‘s barrage of other issues will keep me from streaming next season, its representation of multiple partner love gives me hope for its (near inevitable) future narratives and increased faith in its creators’ ability to execute satire effectively.

Who knows? Maybe a Bob, Bob, and Coralee spin-off is in our future. I think I’d actually watch that.

Insatiable is available to stream on Netflix.

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