How 'Dietland' Intersects With the #MeToo Movement

The AMC series, premiering Monday, is both unintentionally timely and influenced by the nationwide sexual misconduct reckoning that began last fall.
Courtesy of AMC

AMC's new series from prolific writer-producer Marti Noxon (UnREAL, Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is just the latest TV show to be influenced by the #MeToo movement.

One of the storylines in the feminist drama, based on Sarai Walker's book of the same name, involves a group of vigilante women calling themselves "Jennifer" murdering men accused of sexual misconduct.

That storyline alone seems particularly timely amid the nationwide reckoning that began last fall, but the series had been in the works for at least a year before a wave of high-profile men, many in Hollywood, were accused of decades of sexual harassment and assault.

Noxon says, "Some people have said to me, 'How were you so prescient?' I've been alive and paying attention, and like a lot of women, especially professional women, you know the stuff that you've gone through and sort of accepted as normal until just two minutes ago, so I think those are the things that feel like they're right on time."

The 10-episode first season, which premieres Monday night, was still in production when allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other high-profile men began surfacing, making those who worked on the show even more confident of its timeliness.

"It was sort of confirmation again and again that what we're doing is important," star Joy Nash said of working on the show amid the #MeToo movement. "So many people have the same story. This needs to be talked about."

Noxon also rewrote some of the scripts so Dietland would take place in a world where the #MeToo movement had already begun.

"We were lucky, because we were still shooting and still writing and [able to] just to shift the world that the book took place in slightly to be in the wake of the movement, and to really make the point that the movement is not one guy getting in trouble and going to rehab," Noxon explains. "A movement is continuing to hold ourselves and other people accountable and continuing to hold all people to the golden rule: Just don't be assholes."

Specifically, Noxon says, "I did some rewriting to make Plum (Nash) and the show live in a moment that's like the moment we're in right now, and actually, in episode eight, I had a lot of fun with Plum talking through exactly what that's like and her dissection of [what's going on]. There's no hashtag, but now that people are talking about this, this is what I think. That wouldn't have happened without what's happening right now."

When the series begins, the most #MeToo element is the revenge murders taking place in the background of the main storyline involving Plum's struggle with her own self-image in a weight- and beauty-obsessed world. While toiling away ghostwriting the answers to the letters powerful women's magazine editor Kitty Montgomery (Julianna Margulies) receives from readers, Plum is preparing for weight-loss surgery, believing that once she's thin, everything will be better.

"She hates her current body and [thinks] not just that she'll love her body when she's thin, she'll love her life," Nash says of Plum's mind-set at the start of the series. "Everything can happen to you once you've achieved your perfection, your perfect form, except that life is happening now. Like this is it."

While the revenge murders and Plum's storyline start out as distinct threads, Noxon sees connections between the two, arguing that a lesson from the #MeToo movement is to "be kinder to ourselves."

"I think a lot of this stuff gets perpetrated because people think they deserve it," Noxon explains. "The message that Plum carried with her and feelings about herself being a fat woman and being so judged was another metaphor for this world, where we are so focused on being seen as attractive to somebody else instead of what we think about ourselves."

The showrunner also teases that those threads will come together more than they did in Walker's novel.

"In the book those storylines are very distinct, and one is sort of commenting on the other, but the links between them are very tenuous," Noxon says. "That was something that I said very early on to Sarai, like in the first season, 'I want to go further.' So we're very faithful to the book for the first four or five episodes, but then…we pushed further than the book to make those connections more explicit, because that's something that I was craving as a reader. I was like, 'I want to know more,' so we give you more."