Hi, how are you? Fine, I hope! Here at the Mercury we’ve been giggly all week about the recent debut of Shrill on Hulu! It’s based on the book by Lindy West, who got her start at our sister paper, The Stranger in Seattle, but the show is based right here in Portland, stars the great Aidy Bryant, and is partially set in an alt-weekly newspaper office not terribly unlike the Mercury! SQUEEEEE! I KNOW, RIGHT?
Note that I said, “not terribly unlike,” because while there are certain similarities (actually just one), there are several dissimilarities. And with that introduction, I’ll now educate you on the differences between TV and real-life newspapering offices.
Most Noticeable Similarity: Shrill’s newspapering office is kind of nice, but also kind of looks like shit. Before filming, Shrill production designers visited the Mercury office to get the “overall vibe” of an alt-weekly newspaper, and pretty much nailed it. If you were to drop by our office for a visit (don’t), you’d probably say, “Oh, this place is not very disgusting.” But a closer look would reveal a half-eaten tuna fish sandwich, an egg-crusted fork that’s stuck to a desk, and the unmistakable mixing of smells from a mostly finished bottle of Johnny Walker Red and a used hockey uniform that’s been inexplicably sitting around for months. And that’s just MY office! So good work, Team Shrill.
Dissimilarity #1: Pencils. On the show I noticed a large goblet/fishbowl that was filled with sharpened pencils. WHAT THE FUCK?? We don’t fucking use pencils! What are we, in the third fucking grade? WE ARE ADULTS, OKAY? And adults do not use fucking pencils! We use computers, red pens, yellow highlighters, and occasionally mayonnaise that dripped from the aforementioned tuna fish sandwich—but NEVER, EVER PENCILS! Jesus Christ, Shrill! Jesus Christ.
Dissimilarity #2: Editors who have electric standing desks and call employees the “c-word.” Look, I get it: To ramp up the dramatic tension and provide obstacles for the main character to overcome, Shrill exaggerated the persona of the paper’s tyrannical editor-in-chief (played by the great John Cameron Mitchell) by giving him an electric adjustable standing desk and an exceedingly cruel disposition. Yet unfortunately—even though this character was clearly not based on me—viewers are now automatically assuming that I also own an electric standing desk and call my employees the “c-word”! To set the record straight, my standing desk is decidedly non-electric, and I have NEVER called ANYONE—especially employees—the “c-word.“ (Full disclosure, I have called them the “b-word,” “d-word,” “g-word,” “p-word,” and “t-word.” And maybe once or twice, the “x-y-z-word.“)
Dissimilarity #3: Post-it Notes. They are all over the place in Shrill, and I have no idea why. In fact, please see dissimilarity #1 and replace the word “pencil” with “Post-it Notes” and you’ll know my feelings on the matter.
Okay, so all in all, Shrill does a pretty good job of depicting the day-to-day life of alternative newspapering—except of course for the Post-it Notes, electric desks, c-words, and most unbelievably of all, THOSE PENCILS. (And where are the random used hockey uniforms? They can do better.)
Wm. Steven Humphrey