The True Story Behind 'Shrill' Is Just As Inspiring As The Show
SNL fans who follow Aidy Bryant on Instagram and are thus willing to follow her to the ends of the earth know that she's been promoting her new Hulu series Shrill. The quirky comedy is set in Portland and follows a woman trying to balance life, love, and career — all in a fat body she's proud of and has no intention of changing. Since the story has such a strong point of view, viewers may wondering whether Shrill is based on a true story. The source material is hugely popular.
Lindy West, former film editor of Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger, went on to become a Jezebel staff writer and a New York Times columnist, all while juggling the release of her 2016 memoir Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman. The book is an essay collection tackling feminism, fatness, sex and dating, and even the author's own abortion story. In April of last year, The Hollywood Reporter announced the book had been optioned for a series by Hulu, with a pilot written by West, Bryant, and Parks and Recreation's Ali Rushfield. Bryant was also set to star as a fictionalized version of Lindy named Annie, while Lorne Michaels and Elizabeth Banks signed on as executive producers alongside West.
Although she serves as a writer on the show and it's based on her book, West is quick to note in interviews that the TV show is a fictionalized version of her life. For starters, instead of working her way up the ranks at a Seattle alt-weekly, Annie works at a fictional Portland alt-weekly called The Weekly Thorn. Much of the mythology surrounding West's life at The Stranger centered on a feud with her then-editor Dan Savage. On the show, the editor character, Gabe, is also a gay man, played by John Cameron Mitchell of Hedwig and the Angry Inch fame. But West insists that the characters have been drawn after their real-life inspiration with very broad strokes.
"Gabe is not Dan. Annie has this similar conflict with her boss, but John made that character his own," West said in an interview with The Seattle Times. "It’s fictionalized. Some of the issues are the same, but the people dealing with them are different."
According to West, she feels a great deal of freedom in diverging from the truth of her life a little bit with the TV series. "Also, there are legal reasons if you’re adapting something from real life to make it less like real life," she added in another interview with The Seattle Times, "which is a relief for me because I am a real person who has to deal with her real family and real friends and real acquaintances."
West famously faced a disturbing level of vitriol on Twitter before ultimately leaving the platform in January of 2017 — a decision she outlined in an essay for The Guardian. So the choice to give herself a little creative breathing room in making a TV show loosely based on her experiences was probably an easy one. Shrill is now streaming on Hulu.