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Review | The female cast of ‘Y: The Last Man’ is just wonderful

A graphic novel turned into a series, now on Disney+Hotstar. 

September 19, 2021 / 08:52 PM IST
Ben Schnetzer as Yorick in 'Y: The Last Man', streaming on Disney+Hotstar.

Ben Schnetzer as Yorick in 'Y: The Last Man', streaming on Disney+Hotstar.

DC’s Vertigo Comics released 60 issues of the graphic novel Y: The Last Man between 2002 and 2008, about how a worldwide ‘event’ erases everyone with a Y chromosome. With a Thanos-like erasure of all the males on the planet (including animals) the world is plunged into chaos, and there aren't enough skilled women to take on jobs in places like in an atomic energy plant. Women riot for food and there’s no power…

I had read the comics because Stephen King said that they were the best graphic novels ever written. But when I saw women playing petty politics in the graphic novel, others were depicted as murderous amoral Amazons and women criminals, I stopped reading. It seemed that the author Brian K. Vaughn wanted a ‘man’ called Yorick (no matter how clownish he was) and a doctor called Dr Mann to save the world. Such horrendous stereotyping! That women must need a man to save the world?!

So I watched the three episodes on Disney+Hotstar with much scepticism. Thankfully, the female cast is just wonderful. Even the crew, when you look at the credits, is women. Diane Lane plays Senator Jennifer Brown who, like in Designated Survivor, suddenly finds herself President of an all-female White House. The country is in chaos and she needs to deal not only with that crisis but also with the now drunk and rather gloriously batty ex First Lady Marla and her daughter Kimberly (played rather well by Amber Tamblyn. Shades of Harry Potter’s Dorothy Umbridge no less!) who play politics. Kimberly knows most of the staff and will not hesitate to use her connections to undermine Jennifer.

The fact that the series uses current US politics to show all the right wing v left wing agenda works in that country is very good. ‘She’s a Republican!’, ‘Campbell couldn’t win without the racists!’, ‘Jesus wasn’t vaccinated!’ are very compelling arguments the women working with Jennifer Brown make to become united against a woman who is stuck in Israel but could stake a claim to the American presidency.

The comic book did not put so much emphasis on politics but I am glad the series does. Because Yorick (played by Ben Schnetzer) is so lame, you wish the fate of the world didn't depend on his sperm. He has no job, borrows money from friends, his parents pay his rent (neither parent wants him living in their basement doing ‘magic tricks’), but he wants to get married to Beth, who chooses to go all the way to Australia to study and to get away from him. In the comic book it says clearly that he’s spent only one night with Beth. And yet he believes that he owns her heart and soul. He insists that he loves her and that she should not be wanting to ‘meet new people’. I felt the same kind of outrage that we all felt after Raanjhanaa (Dhanush K. Raja and Sonam Kapoor) was released. What’s more annoying here, is the fact that he agrees to help find a cure only after his mother agrees to let him find Beth, his girl. Why the fabulous Agent 355 (played by Ashley Romans) should babysit him and deliver him to Dr. Mann, risking her own life to help him meet Beth, is something only men writers will dream up. Three episodes done and so far he’s annoying, and I wish the sweet trans person Eliott Fletcher (played by Sam Jordan) was the cure rather than he.

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Thankfully this series is inclusive of trans persons, and this show reminds us that gender is diverse, and chromosomes are not equal to gender. That said, I would like to quote the chairman of FX (the series creators), John Landgraf who said, ‘One of the things the show will make clear is that there are women with two X chromosomes and men with an X and Y chromosome - but there are also women with two Y chromosomes and men with two X chromosomes. So what happened was all the mammals with a Y chromosome - with the exception of this one man and this one monkey - died in one event. But there are numerous men in the show that had two X chromosomes, and they’re important characters. It’s also made clear that a number of women died that day who had a Y chromosome and probably didn’t even know it.’

This assurance lessens my irritation with the way Yorick has been portrayed. There is so much fan fiction around the ending of the series that I wish the show actually chooses one that makes Yorick redundant. I don’t want my species saved by a guy who eats like a slob and doesn’t do anything for a living. I wish Dr. Mann has truly figured out a way to get pregnant without needing a man by cloning… If that happens, I want the women in the ex-prisoners village to keep him imprisoned and get some manners into him. The ‘mom’ inside me was outraged when he was being rude to his mother. The fans also want the astronaut and the cosmonaut duo to figure out a solution. They were on the International Space Station, so they were spared! But mostly I wish that trans people save the planet. There are ten episodes in series one, with an episode releasing every week.

I love the idea of women taking over the planet and figuring out survival. It’s ironic that this series was written by a man. The show promises to tackle deep rooted ideas of patriarchy, violence, and capitalism... So let's see where the show takes us!
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.

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