Viewers may get a little sense of deja vu when digging into the first three episodes of Y: the last man, which premiered on FX on Hulu September 13. The show follows the broader arc of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s 2002 comic series. Y: the last man, which is released when all mammals with a Y chromosome die suddenly, except for a New Yorker and his pet monkey. But the TV series takes much longer to develop and humanize female characters than does the comic. Part of that process involves amplifying a political arc that emerges and is abandoned at the beginning of the comic: the partisan battle for control of the White House. That fight is a major arc in season 1 of the show, and despite the fantasy elements, it looks a lot like the stories on the news every day for the past five years.
Diane Lane’s character Jennifer Brown is a senator who suddenly becomes president of the United States when all the men in the hierarchy above her die. And sometimes it feels eerily like an echo of current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. One of her rivals, Kimberly Cunningham, is the ambitious and politically involved daughter of the Conservative president who just died. (When the story begins, Kimberly is appearing on talk shows with her new book, Cancel culture and the death of conservative dignity.) Actress Amber Tamblyn has spoken about looking at Ivanka Trump as an inspiration to play that role. And a third fiercely conservative character, emerging later in the story, holds views reminiscent of Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Showrunner Eliza Clark laughs when asked about the similarities. “Those parallels are obviously there,” he tells Polygon. “I don’t want to play shy and say ‘What are you talking about?'”
Clark says that she and him Y: the last man The writing team took some inspiration from current politics, but one of their main goals with the show was to make sure the characters weren’t pastiches or parodies, and that they were more representative of some of America’s major cultural currents in the actuality. “The thing is, Marjorie Taylor Greene is bigger than Marjorie Taylor Greene,” he says. “When Marjorie Taylor Greene is no longer in office, there will be another Marjorie Taylor Greene. I don’t really care much about Marjorie Taylor Greene herself, but I’m interested in what creates that kind of conspiratorial thinking, the kind of xenophobic idea of America first. All that fascinates me. “
Clark says Tamblyn’s character wasn’t solely inspired by Ivanka Trump either: “There are a lot of presidents’ daughters you could look at that character, and she’s very much her own person too.” But drawing on a reality familiar to American viewers helps focus the story and make it more believable, despite the great fantasy elements.
“My main goal in this first season was to take this great high-concept idea and build a world and really base it on the people that you recognize, or are afraid of, but that you can see yourself or see the people that you know. “. Clark says. “It was about creating three-dimensional characters that have jagged edges and that have things you love about them, even if you think they’re horrible.”
One of Clark’s biggest goals with the show was to escape some of the gender essentialism of the comics, with women conceived in broad and simple ways, driven largely by their devotion to old gender roles. She had the same goal with the political plot, as the writers tried to overcome the simple thought of “all liberals are X, all conservatives are Y”.
“Part of the fun of the political story this season is that, in terms of escaping the binaries, ‘Democrat and Republican’ is a binary that we cling to in our world,” says Clark. “But within those parties, there are big differences of views. I am very proud of the way Republican women are portrayed here. They are very different from each other. There are truces that must be formed between them, because they have very different ideas about what should happen ”.
Politicians in Y: the last man I also have very different ideas about what happened to all the males. Initially, they assume the United States is facing a foreign biological attack gone wrong and are divided on how to respond. Which begs the question that is going to upset anyone who watches this series: Will the TV show follow Vaughan’s comic on “What Killed the Men?” ask, by withholding any answers until the end of the story and then offering a variety of possible causes for your own reason to choose from.
“I love the way the book addresses this question,” says Clark. “I think what happened to all the people with a Y chromosome is not that interesting. Because it is not real. It is a thought experiment. For me, the much more interesting question is: ‘What are the philosophies that are formed and the groups that are formed? What are the organized ways of thinking about what happened and how do we decide to find answers? How does that create a group identity?
“So I’m interested in paranoia and conspiracy, and I’m interested in the religious groups that are formed in the wake of this event. I’m less interested in saying, “Oh, this is definitely what happened.” Maybe that speaks to who I am as a writer and what I’m interested in stories. For me when I watch science fiction [with a mystery element], I want to be like, ‘Okay, go ahead, because I don’t care.’
So the show will never really address the topic “How did men die?” question? Clark laughs again in response. “Do you really need to know?” she asks. “I think there are mysterious elements that we will solve and answer. It’s not like I want to make fun of the audience and never give explanations, because I don’t love that way of telling stories either. But I’m much more interested in how people organize their thoughts about what happened than what actually happened. ”