A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Shrill is a series produced by and starring Saturday Night Live cast member Aidy Bryant, and is loosely based on the 2016 memoir of the same name by author Lindy West. Sexuality is a running theme in the series, with blunt talk about "raw-dogging" and "69-ing"; several sex scenes occur but are brief and not graphic. A male character is briefly shown nude, laying on his side (nothing sensitive is seen). Language includes "s--t," "ass," "c--t," "damn," "d--k," "c--k," "bitch," and "f--k." Adults are shown drinking booze at parties, and characters eat magic mushrooms and get high. The morning-after pill is used as a plot device, and a character gets an abortion -- it's handled very matter-of-factly. The show's main character, Annie Easton (Bryant), is a larger woman learning to stand up for herself and ask for what she needs in life, and the series has a clear focus on themes of self-acceptance and unlearning toxic behaviors.
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What's the story?
SHRILL is the story of Annie Easton (Aidy Bryant), a smart, funny, and fat 20-something writer navigating self-esteem issues so deeply ingrained she doesn't always seem to recognize they're there. She bends over backward to excuse the disappointing behavior of her hookup buddy Ryan (Luka Jones), a bearded slacker who makes her leave through the back door of his house so his roommates won't see her. Her high-strung mother (played by fellow Saturday Night Live alum Julia Sweeney) takes her own neuroses out on Annie through a constant barrage of passive-aggressive remarks about her weight, which cast a pall on even simple family get-togethers. It's not all bad, though: Annie has supportive co-workers who recognize her talent, and a sardonic but sweet one-woman cheerleader in her best friend and roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope), who urges her friend to stop making herself small and accepting scraps from those around her. The six-episode series tracks Annie's complicated and messy journey toward reclaiming her space in the world and embracing who she is without apologies.
Is it any good?
It's rare enough to see a fat, female lead character on TV, but to see one who isn't mired in self-hatred while undertaking repeated, miserable attempts to lose weight feels downright revelatory. Though billed primarily as a comedy, Shrill has a tender sort of humor and is unique in the way it allows Annie to be a multidimensional human being -- both goofy and serious, cocky and meek -- while exploring the many ways society at large can squash a person's individuality and confidence. The series poses questions about what might happen if we were all able to shut out the world's negativity and daily micro-aggressions and figure out who we really are, what we really want.
Bryant brings a bubbly charm to her portrayal of Annie, and although she can come off a tiny bit stilted in the show's more deeply emotional moments, this doesn't seem too out of place, considering that the character herself is only just beginning to be comfortable pursuing what she wants out of her life and the people in it. She's heartbreaking in her early interactions with her noncommittal "friend with benefits" Ryan, settling for the bare minimum of consideration and reciprocity from him because she fears she has no other options. These doormat tendencies frustrate her bestie, Fran (played with great warmth and wit by Lolly Adefope), who urges her to demand the respect she deserves and "stop thinking of yourself in such a brutal way." And through a series of cathartic events, she does, though the path to self-love won't be a linear one: Annie's likable, but also a selfish screw-up at times. Hopefully, future seasons will have an expanded episode count, as six episodes don't provide nearly enough time for the character or the series to truly find its voice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Annie's weight informs the way that those around her -- consciously or unconsciously -- treat her. How does this affect the way she carries herself, and how she gets along with her family, friends, and co-workers?
Talk about Annie's decision to post her "Hello, I'm Fat" article without her boss's permission. Do you think this move was justified? Do you believe Gabe is truly concerned about Annie's health when he criticizes her weight, or is there another issue at play?
Annie is tormented by an online troll who makes violent and aggressive comments on her articles. Did you find her reaction to this situation believable?
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