She makes the rules

Aidy Bryant’s Hulu series screams ‘fat girl power’

By on April 2, 2019

“I feel very fucking powerful right now.”

As you should.

Aidy Bryant of Saturday Night Life speaks for women everywhere in her new Hulu series “Shrill.” The six-episode season dropped on March 15 and has already accrued a religious fan base of fat girls everywhere.

Photo from Hulu Press
Allow me to explain. Bryant portrays Annie, an aspiring journalist who struggles with acceptance of her weight, gender and power as a young woman. Through the first six episodes, we see Annie face a bigoted employer, an undeserving significant other, an internet troll and much, much more.

Let me preface this by saying I will not ruin the entire plot of the show for you, but a spoiler or two may or may not be in your future.

The series owes its spunky existence to “Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman,” an essay series by New York Times contributing opinion writer Lindy West. The feminist writer and comedian co-wrote the series’ first two episodes with Bryant and Alexandra Rushfield, who also boasts production credit in the series “Parks and Recreation.”

The first episode opens on a timid, self-deprecating Annie, seeking responsibility at work and security in her less-than-romantic relationship. Not only is she repressed by the overwhelmingly beigeiness of her “healthy” breakfast she consumes in an effort to lose weight, but also by the ironically shrill reception from her boss as she pitches the first article to him.

“You millennial dumpling,” her boss and editor Gabe, portrayed by John Cameron Mitchell, croons at her request for more work. Gabe dismisses her, but not before noting that by her age he was already doing big things. Men are great.

This dissatisfying encounter finds itself followed by an even worse one, a casual and utterly disrespectful request for sex from idiot man-child Ryan, played by Luka Jones. A disappointed audience watches Annie follow through and consent to unprotected sex, despite the lack of a simple second pillow on Ryan’s bed for her when she sleeps over. But that’s not a problem in this instance, as he sends her home out the back door shortly after. Again, men are killing it.

However, the biggest upset of the first episode comes a bit later. No, no, not when Annie gets an abortion, a bit before that. Yup, when the show’s writers reveal to the world that women over 175 pounds need not bother with the morning after pill, as it likely will have no effect on them aside from the $60-something dollar hole in their pockets. This claim was confirmed by Women’s Health Magazine just days after the episode dropped, saying that this warning is not clearly posted on the products but that studies show they become less effective the more a woman weighs.

Um, excuse me? My all-girl Catholic high school didn’t provide the best sex education, but I know that it shouldn’t take watching a show on Hulu to learn basic contraceptive information.

“Shrill” sets this tone in the first episode and follows through over the course of the season’s six-hour run time: Disruption, education, shock-value and representation.

Moving forward, Annie gets her first article published, endures family problems including an overbearing mother and cancer-ridden father, meets a literal pool full of powerful women and finally finds a sense of empowerment as she confronts her internet troll.

“Shrill” isn’t just a sitcom about a fat girl feeling comfortable in her skin. It’s a self-righteous beast rearing its beautiful, plus-sized head at society, lamenting the truth about everyday encounters for so many women. The thing that makes this show worth watching is not the dramatized conflicts, the quirky characters or the snarky humor, but rather the undeniable and absolutely gut-wrenching truth behind it all.

Later in the series, Annie publishes her second article titled “Hello, I’m Fat” in a fit of rage and frustration without the approval of her boss. Without revealing too much, it doesn’t go over well. However, this article is a turning point for Annie, as it is the first time she says all of the things that she’d been thinking since she was a child. No longer is she the girl feigning a smile as fitness instructors offer to fix her and submitting to the harsh judgments of computer trolls; Now, she has a powerful voice to match her powerful body.

Later in the series, Annie receives a bit of advice about taking control of situations in her life.

“I’ve got big titties and a fat ass,” our heroine exclaims after one seriously powerful lesson learned. “I make the rules.”

“Shrill” wants women to know that they are worth the space they take up–no matter how much space that may be. It is about embracing your individualities and all that it entails. It’s about not giving one single fuck about what words and labels are thrown at you. It’s about smashing that car window and making him go out the back door.

It’s not about embracing your body, it’s about embracing your power.

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About Madison Fraitag

Creative Director
Film, Television and Media Major
Class of 2019