(Trigger warning for themes of sexual harassment and assault.)
Tuca and Bertie (2019) is an animated series centering around best friends of the same name as they traverse the challenges of their thirties.
If you enjoyed Bojack Horseman, there's a good chance you'll find yourself liking Tuca and Bertie as well! A producer on Bojack, Lisa Hanawalt, now has a series entirely of her own making. While a lot less serious than the previous project(although trust me, it has its moments!), a way in which Tuca and Bertie differs from Bojack is how it's specifically from a woman’s perspective. Of course, issues like sexual harassment and being easily dismissed aren’t problems that women exclusively deal with. Even so, it’s undeniable that there is a much higher concentration of such struggles in that demographic. Some have voiced opinions that sexism is all but eradicated in our modern time, and that simply isn’t true. Yes, it’s lessened (in western countries at least) from the past few decades. That alone doesn’t stop sexism from existing. Like racism, it's much too broad to have a definitive end all cease. The way to combat such toxicities is through education and holding conversations on the matter. This is why I applaud Tuca and Bertie for bringing to light common instances of sexism. The series tackles a range of topics from sexual harassment in the workforce, sexual power dynamics between workers and bosses, sexual assault, and more. What sets this portrayal aside from other adult animations is how into detail the show goes. The themes of misogyny are core aspects of the narrative in total and are vitally interwoven with the plot instead of a glossed-over saga. It also displays parts of misogyny that aren’t as openly discussed, for example, it highlights how women too can play a part in it. We see this in season 1 episode 2, ‘The Promotion’. After being sexually harassed by her coworker, Dirk (John Early), Bertie (Ali Wong, also in Always Be My Maybe, and Birds of Prey) goes to her company HR department to file a complaint. When Bertie tells the office it was Dirk who sexually harassed her, in response, the woman working there calls Bertie “lucky” because “he’s cute”. Alternatively, the series portrays supportive men that listen to and respect the female characters. Speckle (Steven Yuen), Bertie’s boyfriend, is consistently portrayed as being unwaveringly supportive and sharing a realistic, healthy relationship. There’s somewhat of a spectrum of where people fall on how much they contribute to sexism. No matter what the gender identity, some may find themselves knowingly or not playing into such bigotry while others actively combat it. The series mirrors that realistically.
Outside of combating patriarchal oppression, topics that are also significant are covered. For instance, Tuca (Tiffany Haddish, known for Night School, Girls Trip, Like a Boss, and more) struggling with maintaining sobriety, dealing with shifting dynamics while aging, and coping with trauma is given screen time devoted to speaking on those themes. Even so, darker subjects can be discussed all the while still being an upbeat story overall. I also appreciated how sex-positive the atmosphere is, showing female characters having healthy sex lives with partners and themselves. Displaying this is meaningful as slut-shaming and humor born of it is still unfortunately all too common. Narrative aside, another thing to acknowledge is the art direction, which is wonderfully colorful and stylized. While Bojack was a lot more grounded in reality the laws of physics in Tuca and Bertie are practically nonexistent, and it all the more adds to the comedic aspects and vibe. In this way, it has a sort of 90’s feel to it, reminiscent of Rocko’s Modern Life or Spongebob Squarepants (Albeit more serialized and contemplative). It's very surreal but yet still tangible, and all the more impressive is that it works with intense scenes without being jarring.
Finally, one of the show’s biggest selling points is the friendship between Tuca and Bertie. The chemistry Ali Wong and Tiffany Haddish bring to the table is undeniable! They play off of each other so complimentary even while being dramatically different personality-wise. Chemistry can be tricky to do well, as it's a combination of dialogue and the actor's performances. With Tuca and Bertie, both work in tandem to create flawless compatibility. While they do have their hiccups as any relationship does, Overall theirs is one of the healthiest female friendships I’ve seen in adult animation. Their interactions feel so genuine, and when problems do arise they talk it out reasonably until peace is made. The interactions between the two could almost be a template of what to look for in healthy friendships!
I would give Tuca and Bertie a 4.5/5 rating for its feminist narratives and casual, positive portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters present in its setting! All in all, Tuca and Bertie receives another rating of 4.5/5! It has a wonderful use of visual creativity, relatable characters, and important messages!