“There’s an assumption that if you’re fat, you’ve given up on yourself,” says the star of Shrill and Saturday Night Live cast member

By Julie Mazziotta
April 30, 2021 11:54 AM
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Aidy Bryant
Aidy Bryant
| Credit: Dia Dipasupil/Getty

Aidy Bryant has no issue with calling herself "fat."

"It is a descriptor and, like, I am fat," Bryant, 33, told the Washington Post. "To me, it's like taking the power out of it. It doesn't have to be so loaded. It's just true, and sitting with that, it makes it easier for me. It just feels a little less frightening."

As the star of Hulu's Shrill, playing Annie Easton reclaiming the word "fat" comes up often. Easton is a columnist at an alt-weekly in Portland, Oregon, playing a character loosely based on writer Lindy West, and she's shown dealing with athletic trainers who tell her to lose weight, or arguing with her mom about how she doesn't need to be dieting.

In the opening of Shrill's third season, the Post reports, Easton is seen going to a doctor's appointment and discovering that her usual physician isn't there, so she instead has to see a substitute who recommends looking into gastric bypass surgery to lose weight. The moment is taken from Bryant's own life, when she was told by a doctor that "people do it all the time."

aidy bryant
Aidy Bryant in Shrill
| Credit: hulu

"Their assumption is that I have that as a goal, and just by looking at me, they assume that's the reason I'm there at the doctor's office," the Saturday Night Live cast member said. "And there's an assumption that if you're fat, you've given up on yourself. And it's like, I exercise all the time. I don't eat doughnuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

But Bryant, who is also a writer and executive producer on the show, also makes a point not to make Shrill about her size, and to normalize her body. One of the ways they did that is by avoiding tired tropes about weight and sex.

"I can think of about a million examples, and I won't name names, where sex between a plus-sized woman and a man is represented by her jumping on him and then he falls over," she said. "That's a classic. And there's something so demeaning and devastating about that to me. It feels like trying to joke it away rather than sincerely finding an actual funny moment. In a normal sex scene between two normal-sized people, you could still find comedy in that. And I think our show does."

RELATED VIDEO: SNL's Aidy Bryant on How Shrill Changed TV: 'So Often Fat Characters Were the Punchline'

Speaking to PEOPLE last year, Bryant said that she hopes Shrill's lasting legacy is that it changes how fat characters are treated on TV.

"I never felt like I saw a fat person's romantic life treated with any dignity on the screen," she said. "That was one of the main reasons that one of the first scenes of the first episode is her having sex, and it's normal, fine, like real sex. It's not like mind blowing porn sex, It's just pretty human, normal sex. That is a big part of a person's relationship to their body and their identity, and so what we wanted to do, was show it with some respect."

aidy bryant
Aidy Bryant in Shrill
| Credit: Hulu

Bryant said that she's received an amazing response from fans of the show.

"I definitely assumed that young fat women would identify with it, but it's really been a whole range of men, women, thin, fat," she said. "People can relate to being really hard on themselves, being their own worst critic and being trapped in that mindset and wanting to get out of it. That is really universal."