Netflix Now: Tuca & Bertie and the Millennial Problem of Adulthood

The Tornante Company has been quietly busy the past few months. Michael Eisner's company's television subdivision, known for the wildly popular Netflix series Bojack Horseman, nearly silently released an all-new adult animated series with little to no fanfare onto the streaming platform titled Tuca & Bertie, featuring mainly avian anthropomorphic characters (with a few sentient plants and humans thrown into the mix). Right from its opening, the vibrant colors of its animation style pop out, a cavalcade of nonsensical imagery that makes it loud and clear that this is going to be a far less serious affair than its equestrian counterpart. 

Tuca & Bertie is a sitcom-style romp, focusing on the wild misadventures that these two protagonists find themselves in. They live in an apartment complex, separated by one floor, and have the strangest assortment of neighbors that any human mind could comprehend. There's a chain-smoking, eight foot tall walking plant; a creepy, shriveled-up vulture who hits on every female bird he comes across; a dog- yeah, there's a wide variety of different species and genera that populate this vast crazy world that the series is set in, and though these other characters are backgrounds to the main birds, their appearances are no less proof of the idiosyncrasy that the creative minds at Tornante have- whatever they're on, I want some of it.

*Warning: Minor plot details may be discussed from here on.*

One thing that really struck a nerve with me while plowing through the ten episodes of Tuca & Bertie's first season was how well it immortalizes an ever-present problem with the now adult-aged millennial generation: the transition into full-fledged adulthood. Millennials have a staggering low rate of homeownership- at least eight percent lower than the previous generations were at between ages 25 and 34. Apartments and shared rent are commonplace, the housing market rollercoasters around in value fluctuation, so it's no wonder that more and more people of our generation are choosing lower effort home options, or even continuing to stay with their parents through their twenties. The two protagonists, best friends but former roommates, represent two vastly different approaches that millennials have taken to adapting into their adult years. (Yes, I am aware these main characters are in their 30's, but it didn't make the issue any less relevant to me, as a 24 year old millennial).

Bertie is the sensible side of this duo, with Tuca being continuously unemployed, yet somehow continuing to scrape by and pay her rent each month (this is never really fully expounded upon save for an episode that touchingly focuses on her rich aunt and lowly upbringing). Bertie, along with her boyfriend Speckles (Steven Yeun), is an honest, hard working- er, bird- who wisely saves up her money and eventually plans to move out and buy a house with her future partner. Bertie struggles with her own problems in an overwhelmingly sexist work environment. In a later episode, she finds herself strong-arming her way into an apprenticeship with the popular town baker, Pastry Pete. It eventually becomes apparent that Pete is a sexual harasser, and doesn't see any problem with his behavior. Bertie finds herself the victim of gaslighting, even going so far as to having undesired sexual fantasies about him from his unwanted (yet somehow unnoticed by Bertie) advances, culminating in a climactic (literally) final moment in one episode that feels simultaneously unwarranted and ultimately justified. 

Though it's likely to go on far less noticed than Bojack Horseman, I firmly believe that Tuca & Bertie is an important addition to the growing genre of existential adult animation. Where Netflix more often than not fails in its movie releases, it usually nails its original series additions and acquisitions fairly well, producing some of the best television piece in recent history. (Fish Out of Water from Bojack Season 3 is a work of art, and I will stand by that until the day I die.) Bojack Horseman plays as a black satire on celebrities and their lifestyles, while Tuca & Bertie finds itself in a much more relatable area, focusing on everyday people living and struggling through their everyday lives in an evermore confusing and evolving society. It simultaneously celebrates and makes light of the modern feminist movement, raising up its titular characters to overcome their respective circumstances and standing up to abusive individuals in a place of higher power. It does this in a less nuanced and more lighthearted way than what could have been, but that doesn't dilute the power of its messages in the least. 

While we patiently wait for Netflix to finally give us Bojack Horseman's sixth season, Tuca & Bertie turns out to be a perfectly great placeholder to tide you over until the inevitable next season. It doesn't necessarily leave its story on any kind of cliffhanger that will leave you wanting more to its story, but you might find yourself wanting to dive back into its crazed kaleidoscopic Bird Town all over again. It's definitely geared more towards women viewers- though the show's creator Lisa Hanawalt went on record stating that she wanted men to hate-watch her show, and it's easy to see why she would say that. This is definitely designed to make men uncomfortable (the opening animation features a bouncing building with a pair of exposed breasts, if that tells you anything), and even promote the idea that women have a place in the world of comedy. It's a cause for celebration, though one that I fear will be buried or ignored for almost no legitimate reason. If you really give yourself time to become invested in the series, you might end up like me and find yourself relating far more to at least one of these two girls than you thought would have been possible. It gleefully pokes tender fun at modern trends and fads, from food to fashion and everything in between, while bringing to attention the real-world issues that women and many young adults today find themselves struggling through. It's fun, alarming, hilarious, heartwarming, and altogether one of the biggest and best surprises Netflix will give us this year. 

-Wes Ball