What caused the plague in Y: The Last Man?

Bruno Cooke September 14, 2021

Y: The Last Man, adapted from a 60-book comic series of the same name, premiered yesterday via FX on Hulu. What is it that causes the plague that results in Yorick Brown being the last cis man alive?

What caused the plague in Y: The Last Man?

The fundamental premise of the storyline hangs on a deadly plague that wipes out all but one of the men on Earth. 

There’s a word for that: global androcide, from prefix andro-, meaning “male”, and suffix -cide, meaning “killing”.

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Official Trailer | Y: The Last Man | Disney+

Official Trailer | Y: The Last Man | Disney+

Yorick Brown – the TV series’ only male protagonist, played by Ben Schnetzer – manages to survive the plague thanks to a plentiful supply of monkey faeces. But what caused the plague in the first place?

Although the original comic book series does not provide a definitive explanation for what caused the plague that wiped out every living mammal with a Y chromosome – except Yorick, his monkey Ampersand, and Doctor Matsumori – it offers various theories.

What has series writer Brian Vaughan said about the plague’s cause?

For his part, writer Brian Vaughan once said: “I like that people don’t necessarily know what it is. In interviews we always said that we would tell people exactly what caused the plague. The thing was, we never said when we were going to tell.”

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Photo by George Pimentel/Getty Images for “The Grizzlies” Premiere And After Party

“There might have been something in the background that only a couple people caught. It might have been Dr. Mann’s father’s very detailed, scientific explanation.”

“The real answer,” he concludes, “is somewhere in those 60 issues, but I prefer to let the reader decide which one they like rather than pushing it on them.”

What about the series itself? What do the protagonists theorise caused the plague?

Of the series’ protagonists, Lt General Alter, Dr Matsumori and the Setauket Ring each propagate a theory. 

The first claims that the plague resulted from a failed clandestine attack on China – that the Culper Ring created a chemical agent and introduced it into China in order to cripple its economy. It backfired.

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Source: YouTube [ONE Media]

Dr Matsumori’s theory holds that the Y-chromosome had been “rationally self-destructing for hundreds of millions of years”. The birth of his first successful human clone “triggered a time-bomb that had been ticking for millennia”.

The Setauket Ring’s theory has to do wth the removal of a sacred amulet from the nation of Jordan, by none other than Agent 355, played by Ashley Romans in the TV adaptation of the series.

Other characters put forward various other theories. According to an air traffic controller, for example, a rapture event occurred, punishing women for original sin by eliminating men.

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Bruno is a postgraduate student studying global journalism, with research interests in the intersection of the media, storytelling, culture and politics. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Packs Light and Forge Press, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com. He is a Student Ambassador for Tortoise Media, a big fan of Freddie Mercury and a novelist – his debut novel, Reveries, is available on Amazon.