“I’m a Virgo” is Boots Riley’s satire of superheroes while confronting capitalism in a 13-foot-tall character. It’s bonkers in the best way.


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Plot Summary

This content contains pertinent spoilers.

“I’m a Virgo” is an absurd and vibrant superhero satire that also serves as a damning critique of capitalism. Filmmaker Boots Riley’s newest venture is a sprawling look at the worst aspects of our society taken to hilarious and horrifying extremes.

We’re first introduced to Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), a 13-foot-tall Black man. Cootie recently turned 19 and escapes his parents’ heavily sheltered house to experience the beauty and contradictions of the real world. He forms friendships, finds love, navigates awkward and painful situations, and encounters his idol, The Hero.

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While Cootie’s parents warn him of the dangers outside their house, Cootie must experience these hardships and joys firsthand. He learns about the oppressive structures within his society and feels the need to change things for himself and others along the way.

Each episode runs about 30 minutes and explores new experiences for Cootie, like joyriding, drinking, eating fast food, and feeling the power of subwoofers. He forms authentic friendships with Felix, Jones, and Scat. He meets Flora, a woman who moves at hyperspeed and is truly romantically interested in him. Yet, as Cootie’s presence gains recognition on the streets of Oakland, he becomes objectified by retail businesses and demonized by the media.

This is a simple explanation of the show. What writer and director Boots Riley also fits in are superheroes, six-inch people, a hypnotizing cartoon show, a growing rash, rolling blackouts, billionaire tech moguls, a fast food chain with sexual moans in their ads, a fight for universal healthcare, and an AI house with Bill Cosby’s voice. If this sounds like a lot, it is. But like Cootie’s Aunt LaFrancine says in the show, everything is connected. It’s difficult for Riley to critique one portion of our culture without dissecting another, and that’s the point of Cootie’s surreal world too.

“I’m a Virgo” plays like a neon dream and a terrible nightmare; portions wane from reflective beauty to gross-out body horror. It’s like a Black communist version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. The final episode, “A Metaphor for What,” lays out the case for its show in damning detail about the system we have in place and how capitalism breeds and needs crime and poverty. However you feel, it’s worth watching. There is nothing like “I’m a Virgo” on television. It can be silly and frustrating, and it is sure to create a conversation with whoever watches it too.

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Review

Our Rating: Positive (Watch This)Recommended

Who Is This For?

Fans of Boots Riley’s first film, “Sorry to Bother You,” will enjoy the continued hyper-stylized worlds of his projects. People who enjoy surrealism and absurd humor and want an entertaining yet thoughtful analysis of American culture will also be intrigued by “I’m a Virgo.”

Notable Performances, Moments, or Episodes

Jharrel Jerome continues to take on challenging yet artistically intriguing roles. He embodies Cootie as a sensitive young man who is feeling so much for the first time. Jerome makes Cootie’s lust for life contagious and joyful, yet the audience can become a parent too, overprotective of this 13-foot-tall kid. Because Jerome has to act as a giant, his scene partners are often puppets (and vice versa for the rest of the cast looking at a giant puppet of him). Jerome conveys the isolation of his size and Blackness in a fantastical metaphor that brings empathy and epiphanies to the audience.

Highlights

Practical Effects Create a Distinct Visual Presence

Characters move at high speed, are suspended in the air, fly, are as tall as giants, and are as small as phones, yet there is rarely CGI across these seven episodes. Boots Riley, the production designer, cinematographer, and the rest of the crew use every practical trick they can to pull off this fantasy: forced perspective, puppetry, stop motion, and more create their own magic on camera that gives “I’m a Virgo” a tactile sensation.

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A Superhero Satire Set in Oakland 

Boots Riley gives his hometown in the Bay special shoutouts within each episode. Filming may have taken place primarily in New Orleans, yet Riley’s love for Oakland is on full display. He makes nods to the Raiders and BART and shines a light on Oakland’s current problems like evictions, scheduled energy blackouts, and a takeover of tech. “I’m a Virgo” may have a backdrop of superheroes fighting for AND against the people, yet it all serves as a sober reminder of the issues we face in our neighborhoods.

“I’m a Virgo” Will Create Personal and Thoughtful Analyses From Each Viewer

What is “I’m a Virgo” about? Why does Cootie use this to introduce himself as people gawk at him? The show can be an exploration of the Black male experience in the US, a takedown of our healthcare system, a satire of our obsession with celebrities, an unnerving reflection of our law enforcement system, a veiled sneer at billionaires wanting to be superheroes out of boredom, and how all of this connects to our economic system that is always and forever pro-profit. There is so much to dissect and discuss, yet the most crucial part is that it does feel like it should be discussed. This isn’t weirdness for weird’s sake; the absurdism in this show establishes how absurd our own world is.

What I Hope To See

“I’m a Virgo” has a finale that subverts plot expectations but works as a fleeting poem. The first third is dedicated to the fictional cartoon within the show, and the last third is dedicated to a stirring speech by Kara Young’s Jones explaining how capitalism needs poverty. The finale feels definitive; even with the disturbing reveal of Cootie’s rash at the end, the story feels complete. Yet if the show were to continue, it should also bring attention to how people get their information today.

The irony isn’t lost on creator Boots Riley that “I’m a Virgo” is funded by Amazon’s Prime Video. Amazon, a major supplier, employer, and labor rights enemy, is proudly in control of a show that’s proudly anti-capitalist. The contradiction is funny and saddening. Yet, if there is no fear of revealing how healthcare, entertainment, the death penalty, and crime are all connected, let’s throw in a satirical business resembling Amazon too.

General Information

Network Prime Video
Genre(s) ComedyFantasy, Sci-Fi
Noted Characters
Cootie Jharrel Jerome
Martisse Mike Epps
LaFrancine Carmen Ejogo
Felix Bret Gray
Jones Kara Young
Scat Allius Barnes
Flora Olivia Washington
Herp Walton Goggins

FAQs

What is “I’m a Virgo” rated?

“I’m a Virgo” is rated TV-MA for profanity, sex, drugs, and violence. While it’s never excessive in any of these categories, it quite quickly asks how big a 13-foot-man’s penis is.

Where can I learn more about the characters? 

Check out this Character and Cast Guide specifically for this show.

Has “I’m a Virgo” Been Renewed for Season 2?

Amazon has not yet announced a second season, yet star Jharrel Jerome has revealed that creator Boots Riley has a lot more in mind for future stories.

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I’m a Virgo (2023) – Season 1: Review and Summary (with Spoilers)
Overall
"I'm a Virgo" is a demented delight from beginning to end. While there's much discussion about the symbolism and absurdity within the show, the characters provide the heartbeat to this series that vibrates to its own special subwoofers.
Highlights
Practical Effects Create a Distinct Visual Presence
A Superhero Satire Set in Oakland 
"I’m a Virgo" will Create Personal and Thoughtful Analyses from Each Viewer
Disputable
90

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