Apr 04

“Shrill”: TV Series from Lindy West’s Memoir

To be shrill is to reach above your station; to abandon your duty to soothe and please; in short, to be heard. Lindy West, Shrill

Hulu’s new series Shrill, which has been called “an excellent and surprising adaptation of feminist writer Lindy West’s 2016 memoir” (Chris Barton, Los Angeles Times), stars SNL cast member Aidy Bryant. In brief:

Bryant’s character, like West, is a plus-sized person reckoning with a body that doesn’t conform to cultural ideals, either in the real world or the wilds of Peak TV.

And while the series (executive produced by Lorne Michaels and Elizabeth Banks) deftly touches on the comic realities of figuring out who you are and what you want in sex, love and work, it’s Annie’s relationship with her body that remains at the center.

Below is a selection of quotes from the book about women’s issues, size issues, and coping with it all that are worth pondering:

Denying people access to value is an incredibly insidious form of emotional violence, one that our culture wields aggressively and liberally to keep marginalized groups small and quiet.

For me, the process of embodying confidence was less about convincing myself of my own worth and more about rejecting and unlearning what society had hammered into me.

Please don’t forget: I am my body. When my body gets smaller, it is still me. When my body gets bigger, it is still me. There is not a thin woman inside me, awaiting excavation. I am one piece.

I am profoundly grateful to say that I have never felt inherently worthless. Any self-esteem issues I’ve had were externally applied – people told me I was ugly, revolting, shameful, unacceptably large. The world around me simply insisted on it, no matter what my gut said. I used to describe it as ‘reverse body dysmorphia’: When I looked in the mirror, I could never understand what was supposedly so disgusting. I knew I was smart, funny, talented, social, kind – why wasn’t that enough? By all the metrics I cared about, I was a home run.

Like most fat people who’ve been lectured about diet and exercise since childhood, I actually know an inordinate amount about nutrition and fitness.

I sometimes think of people’s personalities as the negative space around their insecurities. Afraid of intimacy? Cultivate aloofness. Feel invisible? Laugh loud and often. Drink too much? Play the gregarious basket case. Hate your body? Slash and burn others so you can climb up the pile. We construct elaborate palaces to hide our vulnerabilities, often growing into caricatures of what we fear. The goal is to move through the world without anyone knowing quite where to dig a thumb. It’s a survival instinct. When people know how to hurt you, they know how to control you.

This is the only advice I can offer. Each time something like this happens, take a breath and ask yourself, honestly: Am I dead? Did I die? Is the world different? Has my soul splintered into a thousand shards and scattered to the winds? I think you’ll find, in nearly every case, that you are fine. Life rolls on. No one cares. Very few things—apart from death and crime—have real, irreversible stakes, and when something with real stakes happens, humiliation is the least of your worries.