It’s hard to describe the rush of relief and feeling of acceptance I felt when I saw fellow fatty Aidy Bryant looking sexy AF in a swimsuit on a larger than life billboard in New York City. It was for Hulu’s latest series, Shrill. An adaptation of Lindy West‘s essay collection of the same name. I haven’t read the book, so I didn’t recognize the name. But I did see myself reflected in Aidy Bryant’s no fucks given attitude. I immediately felt validated and worthy and knew this would be special because so many other women would feel the same.
The show was co-created by West, SNL star Aidy Bryant, and showrunner Alexandra Rushfield. And because of how real and raw it feels, you can tell that there was more than one fat girl in the writing room. One of the most notable being author and activist Samantha Irby, who also directed an episode.
There’s so much to unpack with this series. From inspiring and empowering strippers to internet trolls. I often found myself thinking, “Wow, she experienced that too!?” and “I wonder who else is relating to this as much as I am?”. So I asked some of the most important women in my life, the ladies from Fat Girls Traveling. As well as Sam, my fellow Guider, here’s what everyone had to say.
“It was amazing and honestly made me think a lot about my own self-loathing. How diet culture is still super ingrained in the way I eat, how I let people talk to me because I’m not sure if I deserve anything better. Kudos to Shrill for bringing up some shit in just six episodes. Saved me a lil at therapy!” Kyla
“It’s an amazing show. I finally feel SEEN!” Karin
“I’m 41 and it took getting cancer for me to finally be able to look at myself in the mirror and say…”you have value and are worth everything” I don’t want women to spend all those years and have a life-altering event to find that power. If I had lost my cancer fight, the regret I would’ve had over the years of time I wasted ashamed, minimized, and unable to be my authentic self would’ve been monumental. The world will come for you but so what? You have one life for however long it lasts and it needs to be lived as fully and vibrantly as possible. I hope shows like Shrill help other women see that so much sooner in their lives so they don’t waste as many moments on beauty standard bs like I did.”
“I couldn’t help but think about how amazing it was that there are teenage girls who get to watch a show like this. CAN YOU IMAGINE how it would have felt to have this show when you were growing up? It would have been life-changing for me.” Theda
It shows with a glaring honesty many of the prejudices, microaggressions, and fatphobic messages a fat person can experience on a daily basis. Within the first ten minutes, Annie exposes some self-loathing by shoving down an inedible breakfast item from the Thin Menu. Next, she entered the battlefield of micro-aggression. Fighting off judgemental quips like “There is a small person inside of you dying to get out” from Toned Tonya. When Annie tries to save face in front of strangers by turning it into a joke. She’s told she’s funny like Rosie O’Donnell. I usually get Queen Latifah. Because like black people, fat people all look the same.
View this post on Instagram
“Your midriff is not better than mine. It’s just the middle of your body. It holds your shoulders to your butt.” – @aidybryant in our Carti dress in the April issue of @cosmopolitan! Thank you @tiffanyreid! 💥 P.S. Our Carti Dress is still going fast and almost gone but there are still some sizes available on TanyaTaylor.com and at @neimanmarcus & @nordstrom 💕
Triplets; Lindy West, Aidy Bryant, Lolly Adefope
“Fat women have sex,” says Sam. “Begone with the “fat women will never find someone to love” trope. Fat women are having sex, and Shrill shows this to be very true. And what’s even more intriguing is that it shows Annie’s character not always having the best time or having a dreamy relationship, just like women who are straight-sized get to experience in real life and the media. Not every encounter is a fairytale and sometimes you mess up and need backup birth control. But sometimes there are great hookups, and that’s shown as well. You get the entire spectrum of a fat woman’s sex life in this show and it’s very relatable.”
“It was amazing to see a woman my size in sex scenes! It made me feel sexy!” Reva
Unlike most fat people on tv, Annie’s a completely developed character. She’s fully fleshed out with optimism that borders on doormat but enough self-esteem to know that she’s lacking true self-love.
“I appreciated how Annie’s character went from having such low self-dignity that she was spending time with a guy who didn’t even have a pillow for her and made her sneak out the back of his house to avoid meeting his roommates. To approaching true self-worth near the end of the series. I wanted to see her embrace more of her own dignity and care at the conclusion of the series, but it’s a long process that I’ll hold out hope for the second season.”
Since Ryan “loves raw-dogging”, Annie’s preferred method of birth control is the morning after pill. The awkwardness of buying emergency contraception is brilliantly illustrated with Annie buying hand lotion and shoe strings then nonchalantly asking for the pill. Everything is fine until it isn’t and Annie learns an important lesson for us all.
“Can we talk about how the morning after pill is dosed for women under 175 lbs?!”
“I have taken it twice and nobody ever mentioned my weight. I feel like this is just another huge failure of the medical community to #1 not inform and #2 not to have a higher dose of emergency contraception for bigger folks?!” Blake
Annie decides to have an abortion after talking through some of her deepest fears with Fran, her best friend, and roommate. It felt empowering to me that Annie didn’t have any shame, guilt or regret around her decision to have an abortion. However, other factors in her decision resonated with others more.
The pool party scene has been a bit of a hot topic lately. A popular fat activist is accusing the show of stealing the scene from her book. Since the party didn’t exist in West’s book of essays. However, that episode wasn’t written by West and fat positive pool parties have been happening for years. For me, the truth is we’re not as special as we think. Sometimes we have a life-changing experience and think it’s only happened to us. But other people have probably had that exact experience. So it’s important that we consider all sides and most importantly, be kind.
“The pool party scene had me weeping. I will be 52 this month and I cannot think of one time in my adult life where I felt comfortable in my body in public. The thought of being in a place where I can just BE…sigh.” Aimee
“Beautiful fat bodies in all their pool party glory: I have never seen a scene in a movie or on television where you see a multitude of plus size women in a pool living their best lives and jiggling all over the place with no shame. It’s literally so empowering to see this shown without weird or rude commentary attached, and for this scene alone, is a beautiful reason to watch the series. And you even get a glorious underwater shot of all the thick thighs and wobbly swimming bodies that fat girls tend to get told to hide from the world, finally given their time to shine!” Sam.
“Just seeing bodies that looked like mine unapologetically existing was amazing. I mean, that’s why I started reading blogs in the first place and then starting my own. I needed to see bodies that looked like mine. I think it touched on the insecurities of a fat person and the societal influence and pressure we face in a way that felt positive for fat people. Like it wasn’t just people making fun of the fat character and then her being like “ho-hum, you’re right, I need to lose weight.” I love a good “fuck you” moment. It felt real and it wasn’t even all about her weight or her size, but also about her realizing she was more than that and could be more than that. And when her younger self went to the pool at night, I was bawling. I did the exact same thing.” Hailey
“I don’t understand one thing. Yes, characters are flawed …but why must they make her seem selfish the first time in her life she starts to demand respect and take charge of her life. Like it’s a societal fear that women will suddenly start loving and respecting themselves then forget about everything and everyone else when that doesn’t have to be the case!” Natasha
“The scene when Annie confronts her troll, and rather than doing the “nice fat girl” thing, she tells him he’s a piece of shit and to fuck off, was glorious and so meaningful. So often we’re told to be the “bigger person” and to ignore trolls rather than working to actively call out and de-normalize their behavior.” Savannah
“I really enjoyed it and found it very moving/relatable! Annie was a super interesting character in that she wasn’t a total doormat and came across as funny and snarky at times, but in a lot of other ways she was really selling herself short and apologizing for things that weren’t her fault. The ending wasn’t quite as resonant for me because I didn’t like that they portrayed her “empowerment journey” as having the side effect of her acting selfish and being a jerk to her friends. It’s like, she finally started feeling herself, and now they’re gonna have her feel herself TOO MUCH?” Sierra
There’s always room for growth right? Those six episodes have many of us eager to see where Annie goes next on her self-love journey and how the show grows. In just over a week since its release, and the streets have already started speculating about what’s next for Annie and the cast. Here’s what some of our members have to say and changes they’d like to see.
“I think it’s a fun and well-written show that touches on important fat acceptance topics. I also think it treats its black characters as emotional props who are primarily there for the main (white) character’s needs and personal development.” Niama
I agree with this sentiment. Part of me thought it was hot when Annie hooked up with Fran’s brother. But I also thought they were fetishizing Black men and perpetuating the stereotype that Black men love fat women. All races of men love fat women! Trust me, I’ve done the research. Luckily, author and show creator Lindy West has promised more character development and more episodes if season two is picked up.
“I hope that they’re going to have a second season because I would love it 100 times more if they were showcasing a woman who’s fat, in a fuckin hot relationship, being respected, and living her damn life! And the fatness can come up now and then but isn’t THE focus of the show. I mean, I totally get how 100% absorbing it can be, especially as you’re just learning about body acceptance and fat love, but it also feels to me like it reinforces the idea that our lives are determined by our bodies.” Annie
“I’ve read Shrill like 10 times and I think I kinda already know how some of the storylines are gonna go. What I think will happen is, her dad will pass away and she ends up with the guy at her work that she bails on.” Yvonne
Most of the responses I received were positive. But Shrill wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea!
“Because everyone was raving about this I watched the whole thing last night. While I agree it was mostly well written & did a good job touching on a lot of issues that fat women have in general I’m one of the ones who won’t care if they don’t produce more eps. I didn’t have the same emotional connection that it seemed to have elicited in others. I’m also not a huge fan of gratuitous lengthy sex scenes regardless of the size of the actors nor am I a fan of excessive vulgarity. Yes, the language when she was confronting the troll & in similar scenes like her confrontation with her horrific boss needed to be drastic but to me it felt like it would have been more impactful if every other word previously or after wasn’t a vulgarity. So many beautiful words in the English language and they dipped from such a shallow pool. I’m not a conservative person in regards to language but it just felt like a lack of effort on the writers part. Before y’all start bitching at me for not thinking every second was amazing I do think that it’s encouraging to see more body diversity as it’s definitely needed. But the overall for me it was meh…” Jen
To me, it feels like it’s FINALLY the fat girls chance to tell her story, and this time people just might be willing to listen. We don’t have to be the punchline of lame, tired jokes. We’re not apologizing for our bodies. We’re demanding the things we need after years of begging, pleading and going without. We are not a before picture. We are not like some other fat celebrity. Everyone is a work in progress and Annie is so relatable to people of every size because she reminds us that we’re all still finding our voice. We’re all dealing with childhood traumas, feelings of unworthiness and pushing through fears daily.
I think Sophie from She’s All Fat summed it up perfectly in her Vice article. “Shrill is the chubby Mona Lisa of the “Fatnaissance.” Bryant’s portrayal of Annie is fully-rounded and realized. She’s not your fat best friend or a one-note punchline—instead she’s afforded space to learn her lessons repeatedly, to have the kind of growth trajectory that a protagonist deserves but fat characters are so often denied.”
It’s stories from the fringes of society that help Annie find her humanity. At some point, we’ve all felt excluded or othered. Shrill is a behind the scenes look at Annie self-love journey. It’s funny, it’s relatable and it’s honest. And as a community, we need to use this as a catalyst to amplify even more diverse fat voices and continue the conversation. If you’re like me and still can’t get enough of Shrill, dance like no one’s watching to the soundtrack.