Rarely does a show manage to tackle deeply entrenched issues with a vigor that redefines the conversation. “Shrill,” a Hulu series adapted from Lindy West’s memoir of the same name, does just that. The six-part comedy follows Annie (Aidy Bryant) as she navigates her way through a man-child boyfriend, an over- bearing mother, a sick father who just wants her to play her oboe with him and her condescending editor at a Portland alt-weekly. All the while, she confronts body-shaming culture coming at her from all angles. Despite being a little stuck, Annie is no one to pity. She’s funny, optimistic and defiant of the “sad fat girl” trope we see too often.
Annie’s size isn’t the only notorious struggle that “Shrill” refuses to shy away from. The catalyst of Annie’s self-empowerment and the show itself is an abortion with the aforementioned boyfriend, who, at this point in the series, forces Annie to leave out the back door after sex. Supported by her roommate and BFF, Fran (Lolly Adefope), Annie finds the courage to do what’s best for herself and, with that newfound fire, finds herself standing up for herself in all areas of her life. She confronts her boss and lands a food review for a strip-joint buffet, where she meets a stripper who provides a new life mantra: “Men never tell me what to do. I’ve got a fat ass and big titties: I tell them what to do.”
Annie takes these words to heart and her newfound spunk works out for her. She discovers the less she agrees to apologize for her size, the more respect she garners amongst her peers.
While each of the six episodes is a winner, the highlight of Annie’s journey towards self-love is episode four, “Pool.” Annie comes across an inclusive pool party even during her stagnant gig as the “calendar girl” at her newspaper. Despite getting immediately shut down by her Dan Savage doppelgänger editor, Annie attends the party with Fran. Amidst the pool party attendees, all of whom are stunners and, most likely, all of whom get shamed for their BMIs by their doctors, Annie sticks out as the only one in jeans and a button-up. As a dance party forms, Annie breaks down her walls and, with the help of Ariana Grande’s “One Last Time,” and a crowd of supportive women, finally strips down to her swimsuit and gets into the pool she’s been coveting since childhood vacations.
So, beyond its quirky charm, “Shrill” is a show of empowerment before all else.