Based on Lindy West’s memoir “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman,” the show focuses on Annie Easton (played by the BRILLIANT Aidy Bryant), a journalist at a hipster bullshit website run by a hipster bullshit guy with very antiquated notions about fat people in the land of “keeping it weird” known as Portland, Oregon. The first 10 minutes of the pilot triggered me in so many ways: a personal trainer forcing herself on Annie – pawing at her in a coffee shop, marveling at her “tiny wrists,” and telling Annie she “could be so pretty if she lost weight,” while others in the shop compare her to other “funny fat women” like Rosie O’Donnell (because funny fat women can’t POSSIBLY be as funny as our thinner counterparts) and think they’re paying us a compliment (P.S. YOU REALLY AREN’T).
Let’s run the checklist:
Have I ever done the “Shirt stretch knee squat”? ABSOLUTELY.
Have I ever had someone feel the need to “knock me down a peg” whenever I looked like I was truly enjoying myself? YOU BETCHA.
Have I ever backed down from someone because I was immediately accused of being an “angry fat chick”? TOTALLY.
Have I ever been made to “be the bigger person” when I tell someone off for nearly screwing up MY shit? YUP.
Have I ever slept with a man who then asked to keep it secret because he “didn’t want to have to explain the situation to his roommates”? COMPLETELY.
Have I ever had female friends hit on a man I’m on a date with “because he couldn’t POSSIBLY be into fat chicks like me”? ALL THE F’N TIME.
Have I ever felt completely embarrassed and/or humiliated at a swimming pool, gym, etc? YEAH.
Have I ever shied away from attending events with fellow plus size friends because I was afraid of being the target of ridicule? ASHAMEDLY, YES.
Have I ever felt immense pressure to lose weight because “friends” thought they were doing me a favor by making fun of me and constantly dropping diet tips in EVERY fucking conversation? YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
What Shrill does correctly is show that plus size women want all the same things our thinner counterparts want: stable job where they’re respected, be in a loving relationship, not feel like EVERYONE is staring at them because of their size and not because they’re wearing something fierce, be respected and treated as a human being, be able to express themselves without being ridiculed or called “shrill, loud, aggressive,” you name it, BE RESPECTED.
But before you feel like you’re reading a manifesto (ANOTHER thing I was worried about), Shrill also features women of all sizes and levels of self-confidence living their lives the best way they know how WITHOUT having to be, again, the “funny fat chick,” doling out sassy one-liners and being the running gag for everyone else on the show. One of my favorite episodes is “Pool,” in which Annie’s hipster bullshit boss implements a monthly, mandatory company outing that involves exercising in order to shave off some health insurance fees that Annie jokingly calls “forced fun”. While at work, Annie comes across a listing for a big girl pool party (an event I’ve seen done here in Los Angeles but was too self-conscious to attend) and decides to check it out before heading to “forced fun” with her roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope), a brilliant lesbian with zero tolerance for bullshit (like Annie’s bf Ryan) and a love of recreational drugs. Fran shows a different side of plus size from Annie, as Fran is extroverted and gives no fucks about what anyone thinks of her in a swimsuit or any other piece of clothing she chooses to wear, while Annie is a little more reserved and shy. Before hitting the pool party (filled with FABULOUS women of ALL sizes), Fran is micro-dosing psilocybin – a technique that if done correctly, does wonders for those suffering from PTSD, anxiety, pain management, you name it. As Fran just likes to get high, she turns that microdose into macrodose and as most TV and films like to use this as some kind of comedic trope where someone who “takes too much” turns into the “Snozzberries taste like snozzberries” guy from Super Troopers, Fran is euphoric and honest, turning on the charm toward the party’s organizer, ending the scene by happily and unapologetically saying “I’m very high,” which most women who are high (myself included) are apt to do.
Things I’d read a lot in (and about) this show is “I wish this would’ve been around when I was a teenager,” and “it’s about fucking time!” I grew up in the 70s/80s and felt completely lost, even though I was only 20 pounds overweight. Oddly enough, I finally figured out who I was and what I was supposed to be when I gained over 100 pounds due to prolonged prednisone usage for my rheumatoid arthritis. I’ve lost that 100 and am still fat, but what Lindy West and six episodes of Shrill have told me and MANY others: she knows, feels our pain, and understands what it’s like to work twice as hard in order to be viewed as a viable and important human among other (and sometimes, shitty) human beings.
Fat or thin, Shrill is well worth your time.
By Crix Lee