I’m A Virgo: A Whimsical Critique of Capitalism and Coming-of-Age

In the midst of a chaotic hospital setting, a normal woman cradles a giant baby. This is the striking opening scene of “I’m A Virgo,” an absurd comedy TV series that premiered on Amazon Prime Video last June. This powerful opening immediately captivates the audience’s attention, especially for those who, like me, started the series without watching any trailers, reading synopses, or reading promotional material. “I’m A Virgo” might not be a household name, but its creator’s reputation alone was enough to pique my interest. The presence of a giant baby might not be surprising to those familiar with the creator’s work, be it as a rapper or MC in The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club or as the director or writer of the film “Sorry to Bother You” (2018).

The giant baby, named Cootie, grows into a teenager standing about 4 meters tall (portrayed by Jharrel Jerome). He is raised by his adoptive parents, who happen to be his uncle and aunt, Martisse (Mike Epps) and Lafrancine (Carmen Ejogo). The technique of forced perspective is often used to create the illusion of Cootie’s giant size among normal humans. The title “I’m A Virgo” isn’t just a catchy name; it’s symbolic of Cootie’s persona, his self-perception, and the values instilled by his parents. It’s not about skin color or physical stature. Cootie embodies the traits associated with a Virgo—discipline, an adventurous spirit, and organization.

Astrology is cleverly woven into Cootie’s character development. As he grows, his personality is shaped by his astrological sign. However, the series also playfully mocks horoscopes as good-but-imaginary advice people want to hear. For 19 years, Cootie’s existence as a giant remained a secret. He has never seen the outside world except through books, comics, and TV. His rebellious teenage nature pushes him to venture into the real world, where he must adapt to new experiences and navigate the complexities of life.

Cootie’s story bears resemblance to “Gulliver’s Travels,” but at its core, it’s a classic coming-of-age tale. His rebellion starts with annoyance at his uncle’s burger choice and a “truth issue,” but it’s rooted in frustration about never having been introduced to modern technology like subwoofers. This highlights the intriguing premise of the series: a giant teenager discovering the world while grappling with typical adolescent challenges—finding friends, experiencing his first crush, and realizing that quotes from books and TV don’t always apply to real-life situations.

The world in which Cootie lives features superheroes who punish lower-class criminals, reflecting the broader themes of inequality and oppression. The presence of these superheroes prompts the characters to confront a reality where their friends, especially those from minority and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, are also under threat. The series explores the exploitation of Cootie’s uniqueness, with opportunists trying to recruit him for sports teams or make him a model. This mirrors the real world, where capitalism thrives on exploiting talents and differences.

Jones (Kara Young), an activist and communist, becomes a key character through whom the series critiques capitalism. Her impassioned speeches are seamlessly integrated into the plot, highlighting the corrosive effects of competition on workers’ wages and the systemic violence perpetuated by capitalism. Jones’s oratory serves as a reminder that poverty isn’t the result of personal failure but a consequence of a flawed system that creates unemployment and crime.

Despite its comedic and absurd nature, “I’m A Virgo” tackles a range of topics. It critiques issues like junk food, challenging relationships, and the rise of Cootie’s cult followers—a reflection of fanaticism in our world. Amidst the humor and surreal sequences, the series maintains a consistent focus on the role of Jones’s speeches. The impact of these speeches on viewers remains uncertain, but they make “I’m A Virgo” both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The show’s unpredictability and surreal humor sometimes lead to a lack of focus and jarring transitions. However, its worldbuilding is clear and distinctive, providing a foundation for future seasons. The compelling performances, especially Jharrel Jerome’s portrayal of Cootie, contribute to the show’s appeal. The visual elements are supported by a standout soundtrack, featuring both The Coup’s music and Tune-Yards’ score.

In conclusion, “I’m A Virgo” isn’t a story embedded with direct political narratives, but it’s inherently political in its creative expression. While it might not be a household name, the series presents a thought-provoking and critical commentary on various societal issues, primarily the flaws of capitalism, within a whimsical and absurd context. It offers a unique blend of humor, satire, and social critique, making it an enjoyable watch that also prompts reflection.