The original 2002 graphic novel series had a very binary approach to gender, focusing around the only man to survive the sudden apocalyptic death of every other man on the planet.
“Y: The Last Man” was a publishing phenomenon in the comic book industry when it first came out in 2002, depicting a world where one young man — and his monkey — were the only males to survive a sudden, global apocalyptic moment that wiped out MANkind (as in only and all men).
But a lot has changed since then, as noted by FX head honcho John Landgraf at the network’s Television Critics Association Press Tour this weekend. In particular, our expansive understanding of gender, which complicates such a binary principle.
Breaking it down for reporters, per The Hollywood Reporter, Landgraf explained how the team behind the series adaptation approached their basic premise with this wider understanding of the world around them, settling on the perfect inclusive solution that doesn’t betray the original concept’s central conceit.
“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,” he explained. “But there are also women with two Y chromosomes and men with two X chromosomes.”
So how does that translate in a world where every man on the planet — save one — is supposed to drop dead?
“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,” Landgraf continued. “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.”
Even the name of the show has to be understood differently, said Landgraf, though the more nuanced explanation still fits in extremely well with the first letter of the show’s title.
“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,” said Landgraf. “I’m confident when members of the trans community watch the show you will feel that nuance will be reflected.”
Showrunner Eliza Clark chimed in with her own thoughts about what this leaves the world with, as it plays on jokes that have been around for generations suggesting that our patriarchal world could well become a paradise if women were in charge.
Clark reveals that it just doesn’t work that way. While men and women are different in many ways, at the root of all things, we’re all human. But there are still huge challenges that arise in this world simply because of the dominance of cisgender males in so many industries.
As just one example, Clark notes that “only 5 percent of truck drivers are women and our entire economy runs on trucks.” There are many other industries dominated by cisgender males, including the tops of many top companies (and government agencies), so the loss of that entire command structure in one fell swoop should leave many reeling.
The book, and its subsequent series “takes this kind of idea that a world filled with mostly women … is not necessarily a paradise,” she said. “Because women uphold systems of oppression — like patriarchy and white supremacy and capitalism.”
But the additional complexity of modern gender understanding actually enhanced the story possibilities for Clark and the team behind the show. “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.
“Y: The Last Man” premieres on FX on Hulu September 13 with a two-hour premiere.
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