Early reactions to Hulu’s “Shrill,” –the series based on the Lindy West book of the same name–have been overwhelmingly positive, so I bet you’ll be shocked to learn that writers at The Federalist don’t like it!
Touted as a comedy despite the lack of laughs, the six-episode season is all about female empowerment, but on very specific terms. Female empowerment is a concept that lots of women tend to get behind, but despite the catchy phrase, it means something different depending on which female empowerment movement a woman is ideologically aligned with.
Unable to talk to her sexual partner about it, she gets an abortion. This is the beginning of Annie’s so-called awakening and empowerment.
“Shrill” briefly shows Annie considering whether to go through with motherhood, something she talks about wanting to have. She considers whether this may be her only chance to have children. No, assures her best friend and roommate Fran (Lolly Adefope), there will be lots more chances.
So Annie jettisons her baby, although not her irresponsible boyfriend (Luka Jones), and the power she feels as a result gives her the courage to change her life in even more ways. She demands better writing assignments at the publication she works for, moving up just about instantly from assistant calendar editor to a writing a feature. Turns out all she had to do was ask, and mean it. How empowering!
The feature assignment—to write a review of the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet at a strip club—leads Annie to even more empowerment, this time for sex workers. These women, by virtue of their large body parts, are the ones telling men what to do! And all it took was to internalize exploitation.
Annie realizes that she, too, has large body parts, and it’s time to make them work for her! She tells off her parents, the lackadaisical boyfriend, and her boss, the editor in chief, when he has the gall to edit her article on the strip club’s cuisine and female empowerment. The only reason he edited her article at all was probably because she’s overweight and female, not because she didn’t write to the assignment—a food review, not a social justice and sex work piece. Anyway, so empowering.
There’s lots I have to endure when I read articles on The Federalist, and normally I’m ok with that, but the phrase “large body parts” is so shockingly discordant I feel like I should get hazard pay for having to read it twice. [Robert, please put a little something extra in my PayPal account this week!]
It was about this point, rounding into episode three, that I realized I’d still not had any laughs in this comedy show.
We get it, Libby. You wanted fart jokes.
“Shrill” is part of that great new movement of unfunny comedy, like Hannah Gadsby’s “Nanette,” where you don’t have to laugh so much as congratulate yourself on being woke enough to not need your comedy to be funny.
I watched much of “Nanette.” It’s funny. It’s also challenging and a little melancholy at times. But somehow it doesn’t surprise me that a conservative audience wouldn’t be receptive to a butch(ish?) lesbian who talks about not wanting to apologize for her sexual orientation.
For some reason it’s okay to normalize abortion, normalize the concept of using morning-after pills as birth control, but providing a realistic, responsible conversation about birth control is beyond the pale. Super empowering.
The review goes on like this–paragraph after paragraph of painfully awkward syntax followed the phrase “so empowering” or “super empowering.” It’s like a sulky middle-schooler got tasked to write it, but it’s par for the course for The Federalist.