TV Critic Ella Foster argues that Shrill is the much-needed antidote for the body-shaming and fatphobia shown on our screens
In a time of, albeit slowly, increasing representation for marginalised individuals in entertainment, people in bigger bodies are still, in the mainstream, massively underused and unappreciated. A refreshing tonic to this is Hulu’s Shrill which recently came to BBC Three.
The show stars SNL’s brilliant Aidy Bryant as Annie, a journalist looking to expand her career whilst learning to put herself first in her personal life. Whilst the show’s focus is not only on the size of her body, Shrill cleverly presents to us how living in a bigger body over time affects not only the way others see you but the way you see yourself. It is empowering and eye-opening to view Annie’s journey into self-acceptance, which stems mainly from confronting those around her and refusing to be seen as less than by her boss, family or love interests.
In an interview with ELLE, Bryant stated: ‘Guess what? I am f*cking fat, and you have to deal with it.’ To fully take in the radicalism of this statement from the lead in a television show, it is important to remember how television still treats people of a certain size. For example, Netflix released a second series for its hugely controversial show Insatiable which shows the life of a formerly fat teenager (Debby Ryan in a fat suit), who after suffering a broken jaw becomes thin through a liquid diet, and goes on to become a pageant queen. Also, E!’s show Revenge Body focuses on individuals who have been wronged by their romantic partners, working to take “revenge” by getting themselves a makeover which always includes losing weight. Likewise, This is Us’s Chrissy Metz had weight loss written into her contract.
This is why Shrill is so brilliant. Annie and her roommate Fran, played by British actress Lolly Adefope, show two women navigating their lives, refusing to let their bodies affect the way others treat them or the way they treat themselves. Plus-sized people are centralised, and more importantly, are shown as far more than their bodies.
Furthermore, it is a really funny and heart-warming show. Annie is so likeable it is easy to root for her as opposed to some of her enemies, who make terrible, recognisable statements like ‘there is a small person inside of you, dying to get out.’ A notable moment from Shrill, and my personal favourite, is episode four, titled ‘Pool’, and its incredible ‘Fat Babe Pool Party’. One of the most inspiring, joyous and freeing scenes I’ve ever seen on television, the scene encompasses everything right with the show and suggests, finally, a new age of television with potential to include and represent those of whom it has previously wronged.