‘Creamerie’: Speculative Fiction That Hits Close to Home

JJ Fong, Perlina Lau, and Ally Xue pose by a fence as their characters from 'Creamerie'.

I was having a bad Saturday, and I couldn’t pinpoint why. A dream about an ex that lingered all day? A hubristic attempt at a knitting project well above my skill level? Yet another atmospheric river drowning my hopes for a Nor-Cal hike?

Whatever the reason, I decided to self-soothe with a TV binge. Creamerie is (currently) one short, six-episode season of speculative fiction, released in 2021. Three women—Alex, Jamie, and Pip—live on a dairy farm in a future New Zealand, eight years after a virus takes out all men on earth.

Or so they think until they find a harrowed man—very much alive, if not particularly well. He is not (it’s evident to the women) infected with the man-killing virus that so altered their world. Instead, he’s on the run from a man-hunting killer.

While the women decide whether they should turn him in or help him solve the mystery left behind by his pal (a victim of the man-hunter), their secrets and problems pile up. So do their suspicions that something is seriously unwell with the “new” world they live in.

I watched the entire show that afternoon, perhaps if only to critique the immediate problems I saw with the premise. These inherently biological essentialism “all-the-men-died” stories are notorious for their erasure of any non-binary, non-cis gender experiences. They’re also naively anthropocentric in assuming that a virus deadly enough to kill all (or most) sperm-producing humans wouldn’t have a serious impact on other earthly species, too.

But maybe the women who created, produced, and star in this show (JJ Fong, who plays Jamie, Perlina Lau, who plays Pip, Ally Xue, who plays Alex, and Roseanne Liang) would redeem the genre.

Did they? Eh, sort of.

Strapping, conventionally attractive, seemingly cis-men vomit blood onto bare walls in flashbacks to the onset of the virus (where there are no infected or immune femmes in the Facility, the common name for the quarantine where the surviving men were sent to eventually die). But, one potentially trans-masc character, a somewhat reluctant law enforcement official who still uses the pronouns “she/her,” toes the gender line, hinting at the possibility for more trans storylines in future seasons. (Season 2 was filmed last year, but despite my extensive Instagram stalking, I still don’t know when we should expect to see it.)

As for the more-than-human world in Creamerie, it doesn’t seem to be affected by this mystery virus at all. In one scene, Jamie shows Pip how to artificially inseminate a milk cow, but there’s no evidence that’s due to any shortage of bulls. It’s just more efficient than playing bovine cupid.

Still, I watched the entire season while I unraveled my knitting mistakes. And as I watched, I began to understand why I was having such a bad Saturday in the first place.

Something is seriously unwell with the “new” world they live in.

Life in Creamerie’s post-plague New Zealand is very pink and cheery. “Healthcare for all, menstrual leave mandatory!” Women celebrate their womanhood with an annual period-themed Syncfestival. Weekly orgasms are encouraged. Trigger words—like “guys”—are respected. People don’t refer to themselves as gods anymore. They only refer to themselves as goddesses. The government has renamed itself the Wellness Committee, and indeed, things are well.

As long as everyone behaves according to the demands of Lane, the perpetually pregnant, blonde, white mayor of Hiro. Lane is in charge of who gets to be artificially inseminated with the government’s banked sperm. She’s also in charge of who gets to remain conscious and who gets “permed,” the nice way of saying lobotomized.

From the outset, Creamerie’s message is pretty clear. It’s not the patriarchy that’s the problem so much as it is the archy at all.

In the third episode, Alex—a “troublemaker” who isn’t impressed with Lane’s leadership—and Bobby—the last man on earth (maybe)—get drunk and bemoan the state of the world. “This world could have been anything,” Alex slurs. “We had the chance to wipe it clean, start over. But instead Lane and her entourage are just the same old shit.”

Their world could have been anything after the plague forced them to stop and look at themselves. So could ours.

 Their world could have been anything after the plague forced them to stop and look at themselves. So could ours.

I’ve been trying to write this review for weeks.

When I started writing it, I just had a bad feeling. My weird dreams about my ex, my knitting anxiety, and my frustration with the never-ending winter weather? I knew these were all distractions from or symptoms of the bigger problem.

I wanted to write about the way that our plague (you know the one, right?) gave us the opportunity to restructure our world. How, just like the government in Creamerie, our government doubled down on power for the few rather than real care for the many. How heartbreaking is that? How hard it is to be alive in late capitalism if you aren’t one of those few?

I didn’t have any empathy for Lane, the mayor whose hunger for power reveals itself as ravenous, vampiric, brutally and uncaringly manipulative. She’s a villain, utterly hate-able, not designed to be empathized with. She perfectly encapsulates the woke-washed, femme-fascist-capitalism that dictates Western life. 

But this month I’ve kept asking myself, why is she like that? What makes the people in power so obsessed with being in power? One obvious potential answer: they’re afraid of having to live their life like I do, paycheck to paycheck, gig to gig, always on the edge of the void. Maybe that fear convinces them that they can only get away from the void by pushing other people into it. 

Lane remains, to the end of season one, a classic villain, origin story not included. She wants power, seems to need it, like a cow needs to be milked or a calf needs to suck. Her character would be absurd, comical, if she didn’t feel so familiar. She is exactly like many of the real power-hungry government officials and late-capitalist administrators. 

But like those real people, who have real power over our real lives, and wield it with real and drastic consequences, she does have an origin story. Like them, she was raised in a system that placed power at a peak, instead of spreading it out equally. And so what if Lane is defeated, just like the majority of power-wielding men were defeated by a bio-essentialist plague? The system that produced her will be just fine.

I don’t expect a second season of Creamerie to resolve this existential problem. The show is telling a story about late capitalism, not setting out to fix it. I’ll tune in because I root for the heroes of this story the same way I root for my friends and myself. Perhaps, I hope for us all, if we can’t defeat this system, we can find a way to step outside of it.

© Hannah Lamb-Vines (5/19/23) Special for FF2 Media®

A cow gazes judgmentally at you in front of a blue sky with a few wispy clouds.

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

Watch Creamerie on Hulu.

Follow Creamerie on Instagram.

CREDITS & PERMISSIONS

Featured photo: The stars of Creamerie. Photo courtesy of Flat3 Productions.

Bottom photo: A cow. Photo courtesy of Ryan Song on Unsplash.

Tags: Ally Xue, Comedy, Creamerie, Gender, Hulu, JJ Fong, New Zealand, Perlina Lau, Roseanne Liang, science fiction, Speculative Fiction, Streaming, TV

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Hannah Lamb-Vines is a writer, editor, and library worker in the Bay area. She received her MFA in creative writing from California College of the Arts in 2021. Her poetry has been published in or is forthcoming from Columbia Journal, HAD, Black Telephone Magazine, Shit Wonder, and Bennington Review, among others. She is an interviews editor for Full Stop magazine.
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