FX’s live-action take on the acclaimed graphic novel Y: The Last Man has been a long time coming, but we’re just a few weeks away from its debut after years of production twists and turns. What was once a movie project gestated into an FX drama that’s been in development since 2018, with a number of departures and additions to the cast.
A pandemic didn’t help, but production began in 2020 and earlier in August we finally saw a trailer and release date for the show comic fans have hoped would arrive for years now. In the leadup to its release, however, the powers that be at FX have detailed an important note in the show’s canon. Especially considering the concept of the show and its post-apocalyptic conceit.
As the Hollywood Reporter detailed, FX chief John Landgraf and showrunner Eliza Clarke detailed how the show will handle transgender characters at the network’s Television Critics Association Press Tour on Friday. In the series of graphic novels that make up Y: The Last Man, every man on Earth except one, Yorick Brown, is killed by a mysterious event that’s based on the gender binary. A male monkey makes it out alive, too, and as the books unspool readers learn more about what happened after that event and, perhaps, why Yorick survived it in the first place.
Rather than adhere to that gender binary of male and female at birth, the report indicated that though Y is a reference to the chromosome typically associated with defining a man’s gender, the show will not be as cut and dry about gender in a variety of ways.
“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.”
Landgraf said that the show’s title needs to be “explained and contextualized in a much different way” than it was in the books, which adhered to the biological definition of gender pretty strictly. But he said the show worked closely with GLAAD to represent trans characters in the world in an appropriate way, something that Clarke made clear as well.
As she reiterated, the apocalyptic event in the show will still focus on the Y chromosome. But what made the books interesting was that despite erasing cisgendered men from the planet, what was left was far from a perfect utopia. And it will include a diverse group of survivors while telling the story of men and women who didn’t make it out alive.
“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.”
It certainly gives eager viewers some fascinating context for what will unfold in the show, and those who read the graphic novels will absolutely be interested in what’s different between the comics and on screen. The FX version of Y: The Last Man will air for a society that’s starting to understand gender very differently on a mainstream level. And while it’s hard to predict how it will be received, those in charge of the show have made it clear they tried to get it right despite the more dated approach to gender in the source material they’re working with.