Stream the Revolution

What happens when a revolutionary communist artist makes content for Amazon Prime?

Courtesy of Prime Video.

I admire Boots Riley more than almost any other figure who gets to play at his level of pop culture. I’m a Virgo, his funny, inventive, and odd series about the misadventures of a thirteen-foot-tall Black youth in a funhouse dystopia version of Oakland, finds Riley allegorizing what it means for him to play at that level, a revolutionary communist artist making content for Amazon Prime. The young giant, Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), achieves a level of street celebrity only to be used by unscrupulous businessmen looking to tap his cachet—obviously Riley thinking about how radical energies are channeled into consumerism and spectacle. The big bad (Walton Goggins) is, conspicuously, a Jeff Bezos–style god-king with a thing for making his sci-fi fetishes real; his tech conglomerate has an entertainment division, à la Amazon, which cranks out superhero fiction. I’m a Virgo’s most confounding character is Jones (Kara Young), the righteous community organizer who voices a key moral of the show: that the vigilante model of justice serves as propaganda, turning us away from collective action. Yet Jones has a superpower herself, making anticapitalist soapbox speeches so vivid that they trigger general strikes and cause the evil tycoon to surrender. This is played earnestly, almost painfully so. Though just when the good guys seem to have won, a repulsive alien explodes out of Cootie’s side. It’s as if Riley were saying, yes, getting his politics out there in entertainment form matters—but don’t be lulled into thinking that Marxist streamers will save the day.