Y: The Last Man, AKA one bloke and his monkey in a woman’s world

Trailer of the Week: cult graphic novel finally makes it to the small screen, minus its last leading man but plus future-female badassery.

What is it?

The first glimpse of a very-long-in-the-works dramatisation of the acclaimed post-apocalyptic comic book series Y: The Last Man, finally coming to Disney+ this autumn with a mostly female cast and crew. In an alternative present a mysterious event instantaneously wipes out every mammal with a Y chromosome – except Yorick Brown and his pet capuchin, Ampersand. The human race will die out unless Yorick can get round to a lot of procreating, pronto, or you know, science. Created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra, the graphic novel ran for 60 issues between 2002 and 2008.

That’s a long run for a single-story comic...

Yep, but the adaptation backstory is even longer and more winding – there were film plans in the early 2000s, and FX began developing a TV series in 2015. And then it was called Y.

Y?

Exactly, why? It also featured in the title role Barry Keoghan, the incendiary young Irish actor who killed it in Dunkirk, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Calm With Horses. He was cast at the pilot stage in early 2018, but in February last year, it was revealed that he had exited the project.

Y?

Still, no one knows. But step forward Ben Schnetzer, a 31-year-old New Yorker who studied at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. You might recognise him from his role as Irishman Mark Ashton in Pride, the refreshingly Not Naff film from 2014 about London gay activists supporting striking miners in 1984.

What happens in the trailer?

In a war room at The Pentagon, the President is alerted to the fact that he has a nosebleed. I’m fine,” he mutters to a female aide. He’s not. Within minutes, every male stiff in a suit or uniform is exactly that: stiff. Across the world, the scene is repeated. There’s only one cisgender male left: Yorick.

Finally the patriarchy is no more!

Exactly, break out the bunting. But, quickly it seems, matriarchal factionalism breaks out, and a 10-episode, all-action thriller ensues as womankind races to save the planet. Although if it was only blokes who were left standing, imagine how short this show would have been. They’d have all killed each other within the first hour.

So this a starkly binary world?

Ah, no. While Yorick is told that he is, in no small terms, reproductively interesting”, in the two decades since the original comic was published, the conception of gender has moved on. “[I]n our world of the show, every living mammal with a Y chromosome dies,” showrunner Eliza Clark said last week at the Television Critics’ Association press tour in Los Angeles. Tragically, that includes many women. It includes nonbinary people and includes intersex people. But that’s also true of the survivors. I think every single person who is working on the show – from the writers to the directors to the cast and the crew – are making a show that affirms that trans women are women, trans men are men, nonbinary people are nonbinary, and that is part of the sort of richness of the world we get to play with.”

Meaning: this is a sci-fi that is futuristic and (hopefully) fanciful but also bang on the money in terms of modern society and true representation.

Exactly. Which is one reason that the long road to the screen has been worth it. Still not sure where the monkey comes into it, though.

What’s the music like?

An ironic use of It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World, by James Brown and Betty Jean Newsome. Rolling Stone called the lyrics of the 1966 recording biblically chauvinistic”.

Grimly appropriately, Newsome – Brown’s former girlfriend – had to later sue The Godfather of Soul for a share of royalties after he’d denied she’d had anything to do with writing it. She won. That learned him. (Yeah, right.)

Not to be confused with…

…that awful period on early Friends when Ross had Marcel the capuchin crapping on his shoulder.

How are they describing this extinction-level event?

A day like any other. And then. They were all gone. Except for one.”

How should we describe it?

Alas Poor Yorick.

When’s it out?

The first three episodes launch on Disney+ on 22nd September 2021.


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