The superhero sub-genre has only gained popularity among the masses over the years. Since the studios making such movies and shows intend to keep it that way so that people can spend their hard-earned money on them, it has become a little stale. Even the ones that exhibit an insane level of art, emotion, and passion (like Across the Spider-Verse and Guardians of the Galaxy 3) tend to hit the fabled four quadrants. That leaves little to no room for genuine deconstruction because everyone has to sell merchandise. Hence, out of the hundreds of superhero-related properties, there are Watchmen (the movie and the show), Invincible, The Boys, and Kick-Ass trying to break the mold. And although these titles are prone to sequels (which include seasons of a show) and spin-offs, it seems like we’ve got another strong contender in the form of I’m A Virgo.
Created by Boots Riley, along with a band of incredibly talented writers, I’m A Virgo follows Cootie, a boy whose proportions are a little off. And by little, I mean he grows up to be a 13-foot-tall teenager. He lives with Lafrancine and Martisee, who obviously guard him from the rest of the world because they don’t know how everyone’s going to react to his existence. But, one fine day, he meets the neighborhood rebels—Felix, Jones, and Scat—and he goes out to explore how the real world works after only viewing it through comic books, movies, TV shows, and the news. Due to Cootie’s stature, he is spotted by the neighborhood fascist, who goes by the name Hero. Although he doesn’t have any superpowers, he uses his money and intellect to act as an arm of the insidious judicial system. Since Cootie doesn’t want to jeopardize his newfound freedom and popularity, he needs to find a way to bring down Hero.
To be frank, there’s too much going on in I’m A Virgo to list in a single article. Riley and his team are talking about racism, gentrification, police brutality, systemic oppression, classism, propaganda, healthcare, the commodification of Black bodies, sexuality, mental health issues, and so much more. And it’s all worth pausing, dissecting, and thinking about. But, given how we’re in the midst of a superhero showdown of sorts, on the big screen as well as the small screen, I feel that the show’s most potent commentary is the one about the superhero sub-genre being a Trojan horse for normalizing capitalism and championing state-sponsored violence. Without naming any names, most superheroes in the mainstream are in cahoots with the police or the government, i.e., two institutions that are popular for being anti-human. There aren’t a lot of vigilantes anymore who punch up or stick it to the rich. Some of them even work with the police without questioning how corrupt the profession can be. So, to see a Black man be a true vigilante, thereby rejecting sponsorship deals and adulation from the system, is undoubtedly refreshing. Major props for the dialogue-writing because of how succinctly they put forth all these points without necessarily making it sound preachy.
Clarity of thought is really important because it helps you navigate the fever dream viewing experience of I’m A Virgo. I won’t say that you really “hit the ground running.” But the sight of a massive baby in an otherwise mundane environment fits the definition of starting the story with a bang. Once your mind has acclimatized to the sight of Cootie, Riley and his team begin to throw in some of the more “out there” stuff. The presentation of Flora’s superspeed is so realistic, surreal, and heartbreaking all at the same time. That’s why when you get into a sex scene that involves her character, your first instinct isn’t to laugh at it but to understand what she’s working with. You find humanity in this world’s absurdity, and that’s awesome. The show features some of the best VFX, SFX, production design, and costume design that I’ve seen. The worldbuilding is astonishing, starting from the intricate memorabilia in Cootie’s room to the grander aspects of the show, e.g., Hero’s skyscraper. The whole capitalism exposition scene is awe-inspiring. The use of the colors red, white, and blue is so blunt! The animated sequences are like a cross between F is for Family and South Park. I can go on and on, but the bottom line is that I’m A Virgo looks and sounds amazing.
The cast is a treasure trove of brilliant performances. Jharrel Jerome imbues Cootie with so much vulnerability that you cannot help but feel for him. He underscores the show’s angst and how it wants to rage against the system but has to play by the rules that have been written by the oppressors. Olivia Washington exudes so much grace, intelligence, and empathy through Flora. Her chemistry with Jerome is palpable. To be honest, I could’ve watched an entire show where she deals with customers who think and act too slowly for her. Allius Barnes, Brett Gray, and Kara Young feel like a cohesive unit. But as the show goes on, you see the nuances in their characters that are highlighted through their acting. I like how Boots and his writers find the time to give them their due amidst all the chaos that’s going on, especially for Scat, because he’s like the emotional lynchpin of the show. Carmen Ejogo and Mike Epps are hands down the best parental figures of the year. Craig Tate’s laidback energy is hilarious. Robert Longstreet as a cult leader who cosplays as Steve Jobs is great. And then, of course, there’s Walton Goggins, who can be perceived as a cross between Batman and Iron Man. He’s the only actor who can switch between brooding calmness and snarky arrogance like it’s nothing. As for the rest of the supporting cast, a round of applause should go out to every single one of them.
In conclusion, I’m A Virgo is one of the best shows of the year. It’s one of the best attempts at deconstructing the superhero mythos and blatantly linking it to capitalism and government propaganda. It is so unafraid to talk about the things that comic books used to talk about. I may be biased because I love Sorry to Bother You, and I’m technically a Virgo. I’ll say that the only thing holding it back from a perfect five out of five is the open-ended nature of some of the subplots. I’m not saying that I need an immediate resolution. It’s just that there aren’t even any hints about the inciting incidents for those subplots. And I think that undercuts the otherwise tight storytelling of the central plot. Apart from that minor criticism, I totally and unapologetically recommend watching I’m A Virgo, forming your own opinion, and letting us know about it.