In Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man comic, most of the world’s population of mammals with a Y chromosome — save for one man and his pet capuchin monkey — suddenly perish in a mysterious plague whose origins are never fully explained. Though the comic spends a fair amount of time ruminating on how people’s ideas about gender are uprooted by the virtual extinction of biologically male organisms, one of the big questions hanging over FX’s upcoming live-action adaptation has been how the story might go about thinking beyond the static gender binary.
Though many people often think of themselves and other living creatures as being divided into strict male and female categories that align with the gender binary, the reality is that a person’s (let’s stick with humans for now) biological sex doesn’t necessarily reflect their gender presentation. During the recent virtual Television Critics Association press tour, showrunner Eliza Clark and FX CEO John Landgraf took some time to explain how their new Y: The Last Man series will stick to the comic’s premise while also explicitly acknowledging the complexities of people’s lived experiences as they relate to their genders and sex.
While Yorick (the surviving man) and Ampersand (the monkey) will still be Y: The Last Man’s only living characters with Y chromosomes, Landgraf said that “the show will make clear 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.”
What Landgraf was touching on is the way that people’s biological sexes are determined by the presence of a Y sex chromosome. While most people are born with two chromosomes, some are born with either extra X or Y chromosomes, which can affect the way their bodies develop. Along with the rest of Y: The Last Man’s creative team, Clark wanted viewers to understand this reality about our world, and for it to be reflected in the show.
“Tragically, that includes many women,” Clark said of those who die because of the virus. “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.”
Landgraf’s use of the past tense implies that while there may be flashbacks of men with extra X chromosomes, Yorick will still be the series’ only prominent male character. What’s really fascinating about all of this, though, is how Y: The Last Man’s attention to detail lends itself to the show’s focus on people grappling directly with the trappings of gender — which is ultimately a construct you’d think people might do away with in a single-sex apocalypse. Clark emphasised, though, that despite its name, Y: The Last Man puts a significant amount of time unpacking how women can replicate and perpetuate systems of oppression like sexism, racism, and capitalism that were once dominated by men.
From the sounds of it, Y: The Last Man might actually end up being one of the more compelling new comic book adaptations to drop this fall, something that’s made all the more impressive by how long people have been looking forward to its premiere.
That comes September 13 on FX in the U.S. Stay tuned for news of its Australian release.