Juggling about ten different tones and genres without breaking a sweat, Amazon Prime Video’s I’m A Virgo is a mocking critique of the superhero genre, a political satire about community organizers in Oakland, an urban fantasy fable, and a surreal experiment in low-fi practical VFX. There’s nothing else like it on TV.
Creator: Boots Riley
Streaming: Amazon Prime Video
Created and directed by the filmmaker behind ‘Sorry to Bother You,’ this boldly surreal miniseries stars Jharrel Jerome as a 13-foot-tall teenager, in a coming-of-age story that explores leftist politics, racism, and the way superheroes embody conservative law enforcement propaganda.
Boots Riley’s style will be familiar to those who saw his thrillingly original debut feature Sorry to Bother You (2018), but if anything, I’m a Virgo—a seven-episode absurdist comedy miniseries—is even more ambitious and imaginative.
Jharrel Jerome stars as Cootie, a 13-foot-tall teenager who was raised in secret by his adoptive parents, increasingly frustated by their refusal to let him go outside. The symbolism of a 19-year-old being literally too big for his childhood home is all too obvious. After making his name with intense, dramatic roles (Moonlight; When They See Us), Jerome’s performance here is goofy and a little childlike; a naive presence in the midst of an amped-up setting, sheltered from the joys and horrors of everyday life.
Cootie’s only experience of the outside world comes through TV, comic books, and the advice of his overprotective parents (Mike Epps and Carmen Ejogo). Skewing toward respectability politics, they support Cootie’s idolization of a local vigilante superhero (Walton Goggins), who is clearly just a rich egomaniac who likes to put on a silly outfit and beat up poor people.
When Cootie accidentally reveals himself to some of his neighbors—a group of young activists—the culture shock is charmingly extreme. Cootie’s giant size makes him an overnight celebrity, something between bigfoot and a reality TV star, quickly pressured into dubious endorsement deals by an exploitative white talent agent. He’s in for a rude awakening.
After a lifetime of hearing scare stories about how he’ll be hunted down for his size, Cootie comes face-to-face with the reality that other Black kids in Oakland are in just as much danger. Punctuated by random blackouts from the nearby power plant, the neighborhood is in a state of capitalism-induced crisis, beset by unaffordable private hospitals, eviction notices, and violent policing. It takes a while for Cootie to internalize the contrast between the selfish cruelty of Walton Goggins’ Elon Musk-like superhero, and the constructive goals of his communist friend Jones (Kara Young).
Casting Cootie as an immature but well-meaning young adult who grew up obsessed with superhero comics, Boots Riley clearly has a bone to pick with the genre, calling out the copaganda subtext of praising law enforcement over community action.
Like in Sorry to Bother You, Riley gets away with this level of didacticism because the show is so aesthetically bold, embracing an inventive array of visual quirks: Animated interludes, stylized ads and news segments, colorful DIY production design, and practical in-camera effects.
The result is chaotic and bizarre yet finely calibrated beneath the surface, mixing surreal humor and unique visual imagination with more serious sociopolitical themes. It’s both a rare showcase for a filmmaker doing something genuinely fresh and exciting with the form, and a welcome platform for some real, in-your-face leftist politics.