Aidy Bryant got naked for the children. That is, Bryant got naked for herself. Rather, Bryant got naked because of what it what have meant for her to see something like that when she was growing up.
The “Saturday Night Live” actress’ sex scenes in Hulu’s searing freshman comedy “Shrill” spurred headlines all over the internet, calling it “transformative” and “body-positive” and “life-affirming.” The series, adapted from Lindy West’s memoir of the same name, centers around Bryant’s character Annie, a fat woman learning to love and assert herself in all aspects of her life.
But why would Bryant, who serves as a co-writer and a co-executive producer in addition to her dynamite lead performance, choose to (forgive the pun) expose herself like that, when in the show itself Annie is perpetually harangued about her weight, simply for existing? Why invite more hatred when so much fat-phobia already exists?
For the kids.
“I just felt like I was up for the challenge,” Bryant told IndieWire in an interview. “Every time I felt like a little scared or a little nervous I just tried to think of myself like when I was 14 or 15 and what it would have meant to me to see someone doing that stuff.”
“You know?” she asked me. As a fellow fat woman, I did know.
“To see a fat woman having sexual desires and not being a punchline and to see someone make out with a guy and have it be sexy but also human and normal and not cartoon sexy,” she continued. “I also just felt like so many of the roles that I had been offered previously, it was like so much of sex for a fat woman is a joke. Or the entire crux of the script would be like that it would be crazy that a man could ever fall in love with me.”
Such jokes are cruel, to be sure, but almost more insulting is the fact that they’re just plain inaccurate. Though it’s hard for some people to believe, fat women are leading happy lives, dating, marrying – and, yes, even having sex – every day. Probably even at this very moment!
“That’s just so not been my actual human experience,” Bryant said of the roles she was previously offered. “I always was dating. I’ve had men attracted to me. I’m in a loving, very committed relationship where we’re equal partners. I just felt like that was something that had more nuance that I thought we could bring to the screen.”
But with the arrival of “Shrill,” and wildly successful films including “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Black Panther,” there seems to be a shift happening regarding whose stories are allowed to be told and who gets to dictate the narrative.
“Part of what we’re seeing is there have been gatekeepers for many years who maybe weren’t open to hearing other stories,” Bryant said. “I think now things are really changing, especially probably more so on television than film.”
“And I think it’s really thrilling. But obviously there’s a lot further to go. I grew up in Arizona and I knew Native American women and I always wonder when will there be a show that represents their story?”
“But we have a lot of ground to tread. I certainly would be very proud to be lumped in in any way with moving the needle forward or getting more stories out there for sure,” Bryant concluded.