Cast: Joy Nash, Julianna Margulies, Adam Rothenberg, Tamara Tunie, Erin Darke, Robin Weigert, Rowena King, Tramell Tillman, Will Seefried
Dietland (Amazon Prime) is an entertaining and funny adaptation by Marti Noxon of Sarai Walker’s 2015 novel. The series centers around Plum Kettle (Joy Nash), a ghostwriter for Kitty Montgomery (Julianna Margulies), the editor of the teen fashion-and-beauty magazine Daisy Chain.
Plum writes Kitty’s “Letters to the Editor” column, which means she reads and responds to mails from young women mired in various states of desperation. Plum, herself, is in a desperate place: a plus-sized woman who has tried every diet that exists, she is planning to get her stomach stapled, but needs cash not only for the procedure but also the seemingly inevitable skin-reduction surgery that will follow.
Plum finds herself stalked by a mysterious goth girl who leaves her a book called Dietland, about the founder of the Baptist Diet Plan she followed until she left college and became embroiled in a feminist cabal that has infiltrated Kitty’s empire. Meanwhile, someone calling herself “Jennifer” is on a murder spree, killing men who have walked free after being tried for crimes.
Plum tells us in voiceover that she’s in a happier future, and that what we see is the beginning of her quest. Often the action is interrupted by literal animation, one of the devices used to illuminate Plum’s psyche. In her visions, Plum is haunted by the way she sees herself—a flat, sad lump with dead eyes and gray skin.
The lack of trust in Plum is so ironic it hurts; one of the character’s main issues is a lack of faith in herself — in her beauty, inside and out. Dietland’s plot is about showing her she’s wrong and saving her from an oppressive culture built to make women feel bad about themselves.
The heart and soul of series is Plum. Nash has a natural, charming presence onscreen. Plum lives alone and keeps her world small, never at ease with her surroundings as she both expects and attempts to avoid confrontations with strangers about her weight.
Dietland is a social activism piece about fat-shaming and cultural misogyny. It is an off-kilter drama about society’s tendency to limit women.
> Mar Martínez