Aidy Bryant’s ‘Shrill’ is the self-love narrative viewers need

Why the SNL alum’s Hulu hit deserves recognition

Shrill premiered on Mar. 15.

Hulu’s Shrill has accomplished more productive dialogue about the modern young woman’s experience in its first  season than Girls did in its entire series. 

In the pilot episode of Shrill, Saturday Night Live alum Aidy Bryant’s new show, her character Annie gets an abortion, publishes her first article as a journalist, and comes to terms with her insecurities about feeling attractive.

Instead of forcing viewers to watch as its protagonist take seasons of screen time to reconcile her anxieties—looking at you, Lena Dunham—Shrill drops us into Annie’s epiphany and lets us revel in the aftermath.

The web series—which is based on the 2016 book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West—follows Annie from her busy journalist job, to her lazy boyfriend’s house, to her parents’ home where her father battles cancer.

The most striking aspect of the show is that Annie’s fat—a word she uses to describe herself—without hating that she’s fat. 

The most striking aspect of the show is that Annie’s fat—a word she uses to describe herself—without hating that she’s fat. 

The fact that this impressed me is sad, but it did nonetheless. While parts of the show naturally revolve around Annie being in a world designed for people who aren’t her size and reacting to others who discriminate against her and her body, it’s not the central focus.

Other parts of the narrative take centre stage, and Annie’s fatness exists in the story only because it’s how she looks. Instead, viewers look past the character’s weight and focus on her life.

That isn’t to say that Annie’s weight becomes an afterthought. It’s a part of the character, alongside her brightly-coloured dresses and awkward sense of humour. She calls herself fat throughout the series, not because of self-hate but because that’s simply the word that best describes her.

The show has been compared to other realistic female-centric shows, especially Girls, but I think it stands out. Where characters in Girls reached for realness by being  rude and uncaring people, Shrill gives its characters enough realism to be fleshed out while continuing to make their stories appealing.

Annie lashes out at her mom after a tough day at work and goes back to her immature boyfriend time after time, but watching her push forward in a world pitted against her makes the plot less about her flaws and more about her successes. 

In one episode, Annie goes to her first pool party for fat women wearing jeans and a T-shirt. She sits poolside and contemplates drinking a sugary, likely calorific drink. Over the course of the episode, we get to watch Annie’s confidence transform when she watches other fat women dancing, swimming, and being loud with abandon.

When I saw Annie strip to her bathing suit and cannonball into the water, I couldn’t get the grin off my face.

Shrill’s comedic moments aren’t lost on viewers, either. When Annie takes a pregnancy test in a pharmacy bathroom and gets a positive result, she goes back to the register holding the freshly-taken test and demands a refund.

Viewers also get to roll their eyes at Annie’s boyfriend Ryan (Luka Jones), whose mom comes over to do his laundry and who has a podcast about Alcatraz called “Talkin’ Traz”. He provides laugh-worthy—if not misguided—comedic relief. A particularly funny moment occurs when he invites his two housemates to his first date with Annie, shoving two tables together and almost immediately getting into a verbal fight with one of his friends while Annie sits there in shock.

Annie’s housemate and fellow protagonist Fran, played by Lolly Adefope, has her funny moments but is also incredibly important on the show, both as Annie’s supporter and her own, fleshed-out character.

Fran doesn’t exist in Shrill solely to be Annie’s Black friend, gay friend, or best friend. She has romantic partners, embarrassing moments, and a burgeoning career as a hairstylist. She’s there for Annie when she can, but has depth and motivations which make her an interesting person in her own right.

Overall, Shrill proves that Aidy Bryant’s writing and acting skills excell beyond SNL skits. The show tackles issues without trepidation, refusing to tiptoe around topics that are still taboo today. While most shows’ premiere seasons are hit-or-miss, as creators try to find their footing, Shrill is engrossing from the first episode.


body image, comedy, TV review

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