On Wednesday evening, Netflix announced that it would not be renewing Tuca & Bertie, the adult animated comedy from the studio behind Bojack Horseman. Creator Lisa Hanawalt shared the news on Twitter, immediately prompting passionate responses from fans of the Netflix show.
Tuca & Bertie was the rare raunchy, rowdy, horny adult animated comedy that unapologetically catered to women. For many, it was the first time that show in that genre ever made them feel welcome.
“It’s so rare as a woman to be able to sit through a whole show and feel your spine relax because you’re not bracing for a fat joke at your expense or a racist joke or a rape joke, to be able to just sit and laugh without bracing for a hit,” tweeted designer Shivana Sookdeo about the show.
The show takes place in a world populated primarily by bird people — though there are certainly other animal people, as well as plant people — and focuses on two best friends: Tuca and Bertie. Tuca is the outgoing party friend, Bertie the responsible mom friend. They’ve lived together for most of their adult life, but the first episode establishes the big change: Tuca is moving out, Bertie’s long-time boyfriend Speckle is moving in. Surreal moments where characters interact with their own thought bubbles, bugs have sex in grocery stores, and lakes are made out of jelly are showcased in bold, bright colors.
There is no shortage of raunchy adult comedies out there. But such shows created by women, featuring not one but two leading women, are hard to come by. Women can be fans of shows like Bojack Horseman, Archer and Futurama, of course. But those shows are still created by men and still mostly center around a male lead, even if some like Bojack handle female characters with more finesse than say, Family Guy.
But Tuca & Bertie is for women. And it is raunchy. Those things are not mutually exclusive. Tuca & Bertie shows off a horny, rowdy world where women are agents of their own desires and not objects being lusted after by male characters. Not to say that the women in the show don’t get objectified by male characters; it’s just from the female characters’ points of view, so instead of just taking the sexualization as something normal, they get to react to it with feeling. Bertie and Speckle try to spice things up in the bedroom, with varying degrees of success. Tuca makes some extra cash on a live-chat sex game. Both of them women candidly talk about their desires and sex lives, in a way that never feels like it’s gratuitous or for someone else’s fantasy.
The sex and the nudity of the show worked hand in hand with the humor without making fans feel like voyeurs — things are presented as every day facts of life.
Best example? The boobs. The show is chock full of boobs. Buildings had boobs. Tuca casually walks around shirtless. The cool aloof plant lady who lives downstairs goes topless. The boobs weren’t sexualized or gawked at. They were just boobs. In an age where Instagram still blocks topless women and Tumblr cranked down on “female-presenting” nipples, the internalized sexualization of breasts continues to pervade. But in Tuca & Bertie, boobs are just boobs.
Well, most of the time. At one point, a male coworker makes a sexual comment about Bertie’s body, at which point her boob launches itself from her body because it had enough. The actual act of boob taking a vacation is funny, but it also speaks to the dissociative, out-of-body experience of having someone make an unsolicited lewd comment, the spiral of “I don’t want to even be in my body right now” that such comments send, especially in a professional setting. Just in its second episode, Tuca & Bertie uses a wacky physical metaphor to convey the experience of casual sexual harassment in an evocative way.
The show uses its zany humor to handle nuanced and often heavy themes. There is the pervading theme of sexual harassment, from the aforementioned coworker to a domineering pastry chef who uses his fame to exploit young women to a painful moment in Bertie’s past that she’s only just coming to terms with.
Relationships evolve, too: we watch Tuca and Bertie’s friendship — something that always came easy to them back when they were younger and carefree — fracture and mend itself into something greater; we see Bertie and her boyfriend Speckle handle road bumps in their own relationship, never painting Bertie as an uptight nagging girlfriend or Speckle as a dull unmotivated boyfriends — the conversations they have about the future of their relationship about each other’s expectations and desires are real and founded and don’t always have easy conclusion. And there is the message of growing up. Both main characters evolve over the course of the 10 episode season, spurred from the above conflicts, but also with their own selves: Bertie becomes more confident and assured, Tuca learns to take responsibility.
Tuca & Bertie is a show about navigating adulthood as a woman, knowing that in order to best do so, you need a good friend at your side. It’s all done in palette of funky colors and shifting art styles, talking cakes made of ashes, giant jaguars, and internet users named Big_Hairy_Stallion69. Tuca & Bertie handled a wide range of emotion in just one short season with the utmost humor and heart — and seeing it canceled before it even had a chance to grow is a blow to fans.