If you have Hulu you need to be watching “Shrill.” It’s a brand new Hulu original starring and co-written by SNL personality Aidy Bryant, based on writer and comedienne Lindy West’s essay collection “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman.”
As a plus-sized woman, “Shrill” makes me cringe in the best way. It also probably made me utter the words “yasss, girl!” more times than I ever have in my life. (Watch and you’ll see why.)
It’s a great commentary on self image, depicting a young woman named Annie (Bryant) who works at Portland-based (woo!) publication called “The Weekly Thorn” (second woo! for journalism), and, quite frankly starts out the show not thinking very highly of herself. She’s “dating” a total fuckboy who makes her leave out the back door when his roommates are home so as not to have to introduce her.
To give you a taste of the show and a good base from which to follow my review (rave), here’s an exchange that happens between Annie and her roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope):
*Annie explains that she has gotten pregnant because Ryan likes to “raw dog” or have sex without a condom*
Annie: “Raw dogging. It’s literally his favorite thing. How could I take away his favorite thing.”
Fran: “My favorite thing is you not having a child with a guy who says ‘raw dog.’ You trying to take away my favorite thing?”
This not only a great example of what trash Annie’s “boyfriend” Ryan is, but what every friendship should be like. Note to any men who somehow ended up on a website called Millennial Pink (it could be possible), DON’T BE LIKE RYAN.
The real talk comes when Annie tells Fran: “He liked me and I didn’t want him to stop liking me, so I just went with it.”
That line really made me cringe. Sure, I had to watch the scene before then where Annie falls trying to hop Ryan’s back fence through my fingers, but this one sentence really hit me.
It not only affected me because I’ve definitely been in a place where I didn’t think anyone would ever like me, but because it showed me how far I’ve come from that mentality.
Fortunately, the show only gets better because that conversation was a catalyst for Annie to improve her life — and not through a fad diet or utilizing her self-loathing to change her appearance. Rather, she starts realizing and vocalizing her self worth.
Through the six-episode first season, you see Annie start to fight back against her own negative beliefs about body image and also against those who condemn her “unhealthy” lifestyle.
I’ll admit, excess body weight can lead to health issues. Obviously.
But as a woman who’s been overweight basically my entire life, I can also say it’s possible to be healthy without being a size 6 or [insert “socially acceptable size here].
When I was about 8 years old, I remember my family giving me this folder about a weight loss program called “Slim Kids,” and let me tell you, I never from that moment on stopped feeling bad about my body.
“You’re kind of fat, aren’t you?”
From kindergarten through high school I was a multiple sport athlete. I wasn’t bringing home any awards, but I played them all at one point in time — soccer, T-ball, softball, basketball, tennis, and it was the fact that I’d swam competitively that got me my first job as a lifeguard when I was 15. In high school I did soccer in the fall and tennis in the spring, then swam laps almost every day in the summer, and guess what, I was still fat.
In college, contrary to the norm, I lost weight. I walked everywhere and hiked and swam all the time in the summers. Even though I was probably the fittest I’ve been, I was still not a “socially acceptable size.”
Nowadays, it’s even worse. My job is totally unpredictable. Some days I’m walking all over town, or a festival, or snowshoeing on Mount Hood, and others I’m chained to the desk chair all day, writing.
I hit the most I’ve ever weighed in my first year of this job. 300 pounds.
No, I’m not kidding. Yes, that does seem like a lot.
And most people who know me, even when I was that weight, wouldn’t have guessed I weighed THAT much. Because “Brittany is fat, but she’s not THAT fat.”
We have such skewed ideas of what health and beauty look like. And we assign numbers to everything like anything is fair game for ranking. We forget that everything is really more subjective than we think about on a daily basis.
You know what my “skinny” is? 180 pounds. If I weighed 180 pounds, I’d be pretty darn fit. And when I was fit in college, I still weighed more than that. And I was climbing cliffs like they were nothing, swimming laps until I was tired and beating cocky, beanpole male lifeguards who thought they could lap me in a race.
Because more important than weight is body type. How do you do what’s best for the body you have?
Personally, I have a naturally broad frame. So if I lost a ton of weight, to where people assume we all should be on the scale, I’d look like a Dorito with blonde hair. I’d be the female Johnny Bravo. And I don’t think anyone really wants that.
So, though I am working (not that hard) to lose some weight, I’m not obsessing about it. When I lost the 160-some pounds of dead weight that was my ex-fiance last year, I also not only started to lose actual body weight, but I started to gain confidence.
I, like Annie, let a guy affect how I felt about myself. And after months of depression and self-loathing, I fell back in love with myself.
I didn’t gain confidence because I was losing weight, I lost weight because I was more confident. I could be myself again, and I felt better mentally. Depression and anxiety are surefire ways to add pounds.
That change hasn’t been overnight, and I still have moments where I think to make a joke at my own expense to the guy I’m dating (who thinks I’m pretty hot as I am, mind you) and catch myself. But, in the past few months, it’s become more and more apparent that my self image has changed, and seeing “Shrill” really did give me a lot of perspective on where I’ve come from.
As Lindy West herself said in 2011: “This is my body. It is MINE. I am not ashamed of it in any way. In fact, I love everything about it. Men find it attractive. Clothes look awesome on it. My brain rides around in it all day and comes up with funny jokes. Also, I don't have to justify its awesomeness/attractiveness/healthiness/usefulness to anyone, because it is MINE. Not yours.”
I know this has been a lot all to say one thing — FOR THE LOVE OF VENUS, WATCH “SHRILL!” — but I hope by showing you how relatable it really is, and how impactful it can be, you’ll be even more inclined to press play.
For more music check out the “Shrill” soundtrack on Spotify.