If you’ve been reading about body positivity for a long time, chances are you’ve come across Lindy West. A former writer at The Stranger in Seattle, Lindy made a name for herself with a simple headline: “Hello, I’m Fat.” Years later, she was featured on “This American Life” in an episode detailing why she embraces the word “fat.” Her best-selling memoir, “Shrill,” was adapted for the screen and released on Hulu early this morning—and it’s some of the best, most body-positive television we have right now. Here’s why.
The main character, Annie Easton, is loosely based on Lindy West and played by “SNL’s” Aidy Bryant. She’s a funny, likable twenty-something working as an assistant calendar editor for The Weekly Thorn, a Portland print and online publication. While Annie has a biting wit and the ability to provide scathing evaluations, underneath it all she fears that she’s not good enough because of her size. But when she discovers that her fling with a guy who won’t let her meet his friends has resulted in pregnancy, she is forced to reconsider what she wants and what she ultimately deserves. Her decision leads to a new version of Annie—one who can reassess her quasi-relationship, fend off trolls, and fight for what she believes in. This is the Annie we spend the next five episodes with.
Throughout Annie’s evolution, she is faced with much of the same judgment that women who wear plus sizes often face. Her mother constantly obsesses over what Annie eats and how much she exercises. Her boss routinely writes pieces that intrinsically connect health and weight. Her published articles receive countless negative comments that reduce her to her perceived physical worth. But as soon as Annie’s self-confidence starts blossoming, she becomes more and more equipped to handle the jabs.
What makes this show unlike anything you’ve seen before is the way it captures what it’s like to realize that we’re all equally worthy of taking up space. In the beautiful fourth episode, we begin with Annie as a child, opting to stay in her hotel room instead of hanging out by the pool. What we learn by the end of the episode is that Annie didn’t stay inside because she hated to swim—it was because she was insecure about being seen in a swimsuit. All of that changes when Annie attends a body-positive pool party. She looks around, and, for the first time, she sees dozens of confident, stylish women who all happen to wear plus sizes. The effect it has over her is immediately apparent—she appears to let go, both physically and emotionally, of everything that was holding her back. She is free to just be.
The scene is beautiful not only because of the changes that happen within Annie, but it’s also beautifully shot. The camera goes underwater and captures the women as they swim and lounge in the pool. Every curve is celebrated in glorious detail. While watching this scene, the lack of size diversity typically on-screen becomes all the more apparent. Moreover, the show itself stars a woman who wears plus sizes, but her size in no way limits how she is portrayed. Annie is shown dancing, laughing, crying, fooling around with significant others—in other words, the things people of all sizes do. What’s especially unique are the shots like the underwater one or when she’s only in a bra and underwear. Seeing these images just reinforces the importance of representation.
Above all else, the story of “Shrill” is undeniably relatable for any woman on a self-love journey. From conversations about the lack of stylish plus-size options (“Everything is either like a big Indiana Walmart sack or it’s like some cutesy **** covered in, like, Eiffel Tower postage stamps, or whatever.”) to family squabbles about eating “healthfully,” there’s plenty to connect with. Plus, a simultaneously painful and hilarious troll-confrontation scene will have you living vicariously through our heroine.
So whether you’re just entering the world of body positivity or have unshakable self-confidence, “Shrill” is one series you won’t want to miss.
If the amazing pool party scene leaves you wanting to connect with other women who wear plus sizes, the Dia&Co National Community Facebook group is waiting for you to dive in. It’s time for us to make a splash!
Header Image: Alamy Stock Photo