I’m A Virgo, the absurdist new series from Boots Riley, premiered on Prime on 23 June – and if you haven’t become fully obsessed with it yet, allow me to encourage you.
I’m A Virgo is a surreal, fantastical dark-comedy about Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), a 13-foot-tall young Black man from Oakland, California.
Having grown up hidden away, passing time on a diet of comic books and TV shows, Cootie yearns to escape captivity and to experience everything the real world has to offer. After one fateful night that ends in him being dubbed the ‘twamp monster’, he breaks free, and is soon forming friendships, finding love, and encountering his idol, the real-life superhero named The Hero (Walton Goggins).
What it’s like
With a blend of live action and animation, practical effects and theatrical dream sequences, I’m A Virgo is like if Michel Gondry … or, y’know, Boots Riley … directed X-Men. Cootie is in his own way a ‘mutant’, a man born too tall to fit into society, and is quickly mythologised for it. A monster, a model, a gimmick, a hero – all these labels are thrown at him without him fully understanding why or what to do about it.
As the series progresses, he comes to see that the culturally ubiquitous myth of ‘heroes and villains’ is being used to retain a status quo that favours the non-13 foot tall, non-Black men of the US – and he isn’t going to let that slide.
What it’s not like
Anything put out by Marvel or DC in the last 20 years. There is a deeply fascinating superhero based lore in I’m A Virgo, but it does not require prior knowledge of 17 or so different texts that came before it. It also stands alone as a smart critique on modern superhero narratives without resorting to the over-the-top violent gore of The Boys.
Why you should watch
Come for the spectacle, stay for the elegant takedowns of late-stage capitalism! It’s no coincidence that Cootie is befriended by a ragtag group of misfits, all of them 20-somethings that love to rage against the machine. The show isn’t shy about its political messaging, and through its depiction of a surreal, just-slightly-off version of the real world, it encourages us to imagine the existence of a better one.
The performances are also great. Jharrel Jerome plays Cootie so endearingly it’s hard not to love him. His friends Flora (Olivia Washington), Felix (Brett Gray), Jones (Kara Young) and Scat (Allius Barnes) make up a magnetic ensemble that left me wanting at least three more seasons of their adventures.
Even when you think you know what kind of story I’m A Virgo is trying to tell, it will sideswipe you again and again. It’s surprising, refreshing, and remarkable.
I’m A Virgo is streaming now on Prime Video.