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FX’s long-delayed Y: The Last Man adaptation arrives at a time when the mainstream concept of gender has evolved considerably since the 2002 publication of the graphic novel on which the series is based.
The basic story is that an apocalyptic event kills off every man in the world except one — Yorick Brown — and Earth’s survivors have to figure out how to rebuild society (see the trailer below).
Showrunner Eliza Clark and FX chairman John Landgraf say the graphic novel’s binary presentation of gender has been updated significantly for the new series, with new characters and story elements added specifically to include a fuller gender spectrum.
“A lot has changed since the graphic novel,” said Landgraf at FX’s Television Critics Association Press Tour session on Friday. “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.”
Elaborated Clark: “What was exciting about the book was it takes this kind of idea that a world filled with mostly women … is not necessarily a paradise. Because women uphold systems of oppression — like patriarchy and white supremacy and capitalism. And that can be explored within that. Because gender is diverse and chromosomes are not equal to gender. So in our world of the show, every living mammal with a Y chromosome dies. 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.”
Added Landgraf: “Even the show’s title has to be explained and contextualized in a much different way than it was. We’ve worked really closely with GLAAD and other organizations and taken a lot of input, and we’ve worked really hard to get that right. I’m confident when members of the trans community watch the show you will feel that nuance will be reflected.”
Diana Bang plays a geneticist, Dr. Allison Mann, and notes her “sole interest isn’t about bringing back cisgender men, it’s about bringing back all diversity to the world – including transgender women, nonbinary people and intersex traits.”
Clark also noted that the world in the show is left decimated because of pivotal male-dominated professions. “Cisgender men make up the vast majority of most industries — [for instance] only 5 percent of truck drivers are women and our entire economy runs on trucks,” she said.
In addition, Clark said the experience of watching the world react to the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced the storytelling as well. “During COVID we learned a lot about how Americans respond to a crisis,” she said. “[Graphic novel author Brian K. Vaughan] predicted intense tribalisation, but I don’t think anybody could have imagined some of what we’ve learned, even just in this last year or so, about how hard it is to hold together in a crisis.”
Y: The Last Man stars Ben Schnetzer as Yorick while Diane Lane plays the American president. Also, Ashley Romans plays Agent 335 and Olivia Thirlby is Hero Brown. Y: The Last Man debuts on FX on Sept. 13.
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