Picture it: Cross River, New York, 2003. Like many middle school girls of that time, I was on my way to an indoor pool birthday party. Having just purchased a new swimsuit, I was a size 16, with unshaven legs and no make-up knowledge, but was willing to give this social gathering thing a shot. Doggie paddles, laughter, and some awkward exchanges were had by all. Everything seemed to be going fine – that is, until I entered the bathroom doors to change back into my non-swim attire.
A party attendee, of a much smaller size, giggled as she entered with her friends. Suddenly, my stall door was pushed wide open, the lock busted from the side. I was naked, beginning to have the shock settle in as multiple classmates laughed at my figure. “Fat ass! Chubby! Gross!” they cried, as each one took a turn ambushing me in my most vulnerable state, running in a merry-go-round style. They eventually stopped, but I didn’t leave the bathroom until the party had finished.
Flash forward to 2019, and in baggie pajamas and unbrushed hair, I decide to enter the world of Hulu’s new original series, Shrill. And somehow, through its short 6 half-hour episode course, I have never felt more appreciated and seen in my entire media watching life.
Starring SNL’s Aidy Bryant, inspired by Lindy West’s book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, the show details the life of Annie, an aspiring journalist who just also happens to be fat. She lives with a confident lesbian best friend, tries to help her cancer-battling dad, deals with a cartoonishly yet all-too-real boss, wants to have a decent dating life with a not-so-prince charming podcast host, all the while wanting to be accepted by the world for who she is.
As a plus size New Yorker with similar dreams and dilemmas, I get Annie on a lot of levels. I am the big girl at the office in the quirky printed bow covered dresses, dated men who though I might be attracted to, never fully represented my own self-worth, and have had family that constantly brings up my weight whenever humanly possible. The fear of entering into the hotel pool on family vacations, the disgusting diet food my parents bought me, and the snippy comments from a prior fat-phobic employer? All part of mine and many other’s stories.
But there was one crucial moment in episode 4 that got right into my core. Annie decides to attend a local event with her bff, Fran – a plus size inclusive pool party. Her main objective is to write an article about said event, but the assignment turns into something much more personal, a discovery of her deepest body image fears. She arrives in a button down shirt and pants, but by the end of the shindig, Annie literally sheds her protective shell and emerges a woman who literally dives into a pool of self acceptance. And never has an image on television been more beautiful – seriously, try to top that, HBO.
Between this sequence, various moments of Annie getting it on with two very attractive men, defending herself against a rude gym instructor, and standing up to her incredibly arrogant boss, this is the show I wish had existed throughout my entire life. These are the images I was convinced would never have appear anywhere aside from my day dreams, making it quite obvious that Shrill is something special.
The fact that I can finally see a beautiful plus size woman on TV get her bra taken off in the sexiest yet most real of ways, is absolutely incredible. That I have found a character who makes mistakes that I’ve made, and yet tries her best to reclaim her worth, is inspiring. And to know that I wasn’t the only girl that had to go through a moment like that at pool party in middle school, but saw the light at the end of the tunnel? That’s a feeling that even the English language can’t properly describe.
You can watching the entire first season of Shrill on Hulu right now.