- Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for season one of “Shrill.”
- Hulu’s “Shrill” is loosely based on Lindy West’s essay collection “Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman.”
- The first season introduces Annie (played by Aidy Bryant), a writer in Portland as she ventures on a journey to self-love.
- The show is a quick and easy watch with an important message.
“Shrill” is a series that needs to exist.
Inspired by feminist writer Lindy West’s personal essays, the Hulu series follows Annie, a 20-something aspiring writer in Portland. Throughout the six-episode season, Annie is learning all about self-love and rejecting the standards and people that make her feel bad for being fat. With the help of her best friend Fran (Lolly Adefope), Annie learns that she can be as loud and as sharp as she wants.
Why you should care: It’s honest and real.
West is a hilarious, witty, and sharp feminist writer, and “Shrill” is based on experiences she wrote about in her 2012 essay collection, “Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman.” Serving as an executive producer on the series, West worked with Bryant and other writers on the show to provide personal anecdotes and experiences that depicted the reality of life for plus-size women.
In an interview with NPR, West said some of the male writers were shocked to hear stories the women shared.
“Society really does not teach young men how to value plus-size women. And it’s rough, man,” West said. “I think that’s part of what we wanted to do with the show – was make that experience accessible to people who maybe don’t really understand quite how cruel it can be.”
What “Shrill” does is provide the highs and lows in Annie’s life. It shows her building confidence but also being knocked down. It shows her finding love and learning to love herself.
One of the best episodes of the season is “Pool.” Annie receives an invite to a Fat Babe Pool Party and brings Fran along. While Fran is instantly ready to swim, Annie stays fully clothed. But as Annie watches women of all shapes and sizes swimming and dancing, her own confidence builds and the joy on her face is contagious.
What’s hot: Aidy Bryant is a star.
Bryant is truly the perfect person to play Annie. She’s vibrant and funny and full of heart, but she’s also nervous and timid and afraid. She’s apologetic to people who don’t deserve it because she feels like she doesn’t quite belong.
On the first episode, a personal trainer tells her that she can help her because, “There is a small person inside of you dying to get out.” Annie comes back with a self-deprecating response to avoid causing drama.
Later on the episode, the personal trainer spots Annie and is even more rude, telling her that she doesn’t need to “settle” for her body. Annie mutters, “f— you,” under her breath. When the trainer hears it, she snaps and calls Annie a “fat b—-.” At that moment, you can see exactly why Annie is hesitant to stand up for herself. When the world is constantly trying to knock you down and make you feel bad, it’s a battle to love yourself.
The rest of the cast is also spectacular. In particular, Adefope as Fran is someone you want standing in your corner every day, while John Cameron Mitchell is perfectly brash as Annie’s boss, Gabe.
What’s not: There’s not enough time to fully immerse yourself.
As easy as it may be to watch six episodes that are no longer than 30 minutes, that means that each episode jumps around quite a bit. While some of her relationships are explored, others are briefly introduced. For example, Annie admires her boss, despite his acerbic attitude and brash manner of speaking, but you don’t exactly get a sense of why she does.
One of the most consistently annoying parts of the season is actually her boyfriend Ryan, whom she describes as “a disrespectful baby, but a man who knows better.” Jones does a very good job at playing the large man-baby, but his shtick is tired. It’s irksome to see that every time he treats Annie like crap, she goes back to him.
Annie admits that she puts up with him because she doesn’t look the “certain way that your body’s supposed to be” and she’s worried of pushing too far because “maybe if I was just sweet enough, and nice enough, and easy-going enough, with any guy, that would be enough for someone.”
Fran helps her realise that she’s worth more than she thinks, so Annie starts to stand up for herself when Ryan treats her poorly. He does ultimately grow from a man who asks her to leave over a back fence to avoid his roommates to a man who apologizes for his actions, but it’s still not enough growth, especially when Annie has a briefly better romantic interest.
The bottom line: “Shrill” is honest, fun, and necessary.
Bryant does a masterful job of bringing Annie to the small screen. Bryant delivers every line and emotion perfectly, whether Annie is being witty and smart or even selfish and rude. Every step forward that Annie takes in her journey to self-confidence isn’t perfect. She can be selfish and she can snap, but she’s trying, and she’s learning. Life is complicated and self-love isn’t always easy, but that doesn’t mean she has to silently sit by and take the punches.
The season ends with Annie confronting a vitriolic online troll in person, and in doing so, she shows that she’s finding her voice and is going to use it.
“Shrill” premieres on Hulu Friday. Watch the trailer here.
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