The Netflix original animated show’s attempt at being a satire is flawed with the over-reliance on stereotypes
Steve Maryweather or Agent Mary (Sean Hayes) goes from class valedictorian to being relegated to a nobody in the fictional AIA (American Intelligence Agency) on the day of his graduation after he comes out as gay during his valedictorian speech. The story then fast forwards to a few years later where he works with a group of other queer individuals (Q-Force) who are long forgotten by the agency. Their fortunes do change however when they foil a global conspiracy and are given more responsibilities. Their elation is short-lived as it is revealed that they would have to work with Agent Rick Buck (David Harbour), the stereotypical privileged straight white man, who has a long-standing rivalry with Agent Mary.
The idea of the series is what if James Bond was gay and American? Not the most inspired ideas, but nevertheless an intriguing prospect. However, the most accurate description of the show would be a mix of Archer and BoJack Horseman, without the qualities that made those shows admired and revered. The most fundamental flaw of the TV series is the fact that the animation resembles a children’s TV show with plenty of swearing and nudity. That, in itself, is a draconian stereotype that the LGBTQ community is overtly sexual by nature.
Using satire and humour to highlight social issues is not uncommon and many standup comedians and writers discuss the various constructs of gender. However, the TV show veers into the territory of validating the various stereotypes regarding gender that certain sections of society accept as facts. The narrative implies that gay men have certain quirks and tastes which are different than straight men, other than their sexual orientation of course.
If these stereotypes were in fact an elaborate critique within itself, it would have been something that literature students at university would love to close-read. Unfortunately, the writing of the show is just an abstract of vague ideas, stereotypes, and jokes that fell flat. TV shows such as Schitt’s Creek have essayed LBTQ characters with great expertise through excellent narratives and character arcs. It is a shame that an animated show, which should ideally have more creative freedom, has resorted to themes and narratives from the ’90s.
The cast and their voice acting performances cannot be faulted, however. Marie Metcalf (Agent V) and Wanda Sykes (Deb), both industry veterans, played their roles to perfection. Stephanie Beatriz’s portrayal of the Mira Popadopolls, a parody of Anne Hathaway’s Mia Thermopolis in In the Princess Diaries, as a socialite/influencer is unrecognisable when compared to her portrayal of Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn 99. David Harbour (Stranger Things, Black Widow) also puts in a convincing performance as Agent Rick Buck, along with Patti Harrison as Stat and Matt Rogers as Twink.
The show is a misfire on all accounts. Even the core concept is flawed, it does not have the emotional weight of BoJack Horseman, the humour of Archer, well-written LGBTQ characters arc as that of Schitt’s Creek, nor the over-the-top action of James Bond.