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‘Shrill’ Accused of Plagiarizing Lauded Pool Party Scene, but Is It a Coincidence?

The Hulu series’ production timeline suggests that author Virgie Tovar’s accusations could stem from a coincidence.

Shrill -- Episode 104 -- Annie & Fran attend the Fat Babe Pool Party. Annie is so empowered by the experience and so furious with her boss, Gabe, that she posts a body positive article to the paper's website that explains exactly what it's like to be a fat woman in today's world. Annie (Aidy Bryant) shown. (Photo by: Allyson Riggs)

Aidy Bryant in “Shrill”

Allyson Riggs / Hulu

Shrill” has received acclaim for an episode featuring a body-positive pool party, but one person is taking exception with it: author Virgie Tovar, who has accused the Hulu dramedy of lifting the scene from her book “Flawless” and a Tedx Talk she gave on the same subject. In response, Ijeoma Oluo — a friend of Sam Irby, who wrote the episode in question — has pointed out that the episode was filmed the same month that the book came out (August 2018) and any similarities are a coincidence stemming from the fact that such parties have been common for decades.

Tovar, who took her accusations to Instagram, wrote that she was “worried about speaking out both because I didn’t want to sully an important moment in fat representation for anyone (fat people have so little meaningful representation. I know how much this show means to people.) and in fear of being labeled as petty or adversarial (words that are coded and used against women and people of color often).”

Oluo’s first issue with that accusation is that it’s leveled against Lindy West, who wrote the book on which “Shrill” is based and also created the series, rather than Irby, the episode’s actual writer:

Hulu has not officially responded to Tovar’s statements. IndieWire has reached out for comment.

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I decided to speak publicly about the fact that several people had approached me independently to share concern that the show #Shrill had lifted a story I've told many times – in my TedX talk, *countless* interviews & in You Have the Right to Remain Fat and that was not in the book Shrill – about my epiphany moment as a fat woman, which happened when I saw a bunch of liberated fat babes enjoying a pool at a conference for fat queers + allies. The video cuts off at an important moment; if you want to watch the whole story google the talk. I was reluctant to accept it, but after watching episode 4 it felt undeniable. After posting about it on my ig story yesterday, dozens of people wrote back saying that when they saw the episode they had felt it was stolen from my book, expressed disbelief that I had not been a consultant on that episode, and expressed concern that permission had not been asked. I know Lindy is aware of my work because I was asked to do an event w her last summer, which I declined. I was worried about speaking out both because I didn't want to sully an important moment in fat representation for anyone (I know how much this show means to people.) and in fear of being labeled as petty or adversarial (words that are coded and used against women and people of color often). But this issue hit me in a really deep place as a woman of color. I can't exactly explain how it feels to watch a white woman become the focal point of a very important, deeply personal, deeply vulnerable moment in my life. It is angering but it's more – it felt violatory, it felt like I had been denied authorship of one of the most important moments of my life. I felt the deep hurt that America doesn't want to see someone who looks like me have a beautiful, consciousness-shifting moment. I decided to speak up because I wanted to give voice to others with multiple marginalizations whose work gets stolen, and to pass on to them what the people who responded said to me: you're not petty for speaking up in the face of wrong-doing. This is my epiphany story from my Tedx talk, which I gave in June 2017.

A post shared by Virgie Tovar (@virgietovar) on

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