Honestly? Q-Force: a Netflix animated disaster
Ellis McGinley – Managing Editor
Honestly? Q-Force: not something to be proud of
Netflix has released a new animated disappointment: “Q-Force.”
The team: Steve Maryweather, self-obsessed gay man and superspy, stripped of his valedictorian title after coming out. Known as “Mary” thereafter.
Deb, tactician and mechanic, happily married to her wife Pam (who works with underserved communities, like “troubled children and Capricorns.”)
Stat, gender-nonconforming hacker and ex-convict.
Twink, soprano drag queen with “jelly bones” and a troubled past, introduced during the clumsy, exposition-ridden pilot with this instant classic: “last night I met a guy who I think is a terrorist. Did you guys all know that all raisins are grapes?”
Buck, token straight man; blatantly homophobic, vaguely misogynistic. Often depicted nude.
The final product: occasionally upsetting, consistently mediocre.
My expectations for Q-Force were not high, despite its queer writing, producing and acting cast (Wanda Sykes will need a chiropractor after carrying this show). Its crass efforts at shock value and out-of-date references, as featured in early teasers, come off alienating. It certainly isn’t a Bond film, or even a queer homage. Nor is it feel-good like “Steven Universe,” the LGBTQ+ children’s show, or addictively feel-bad, like “Bojack Horseman.”
With a circus-like color palette and too-fast animations, it’s hard to find a good reason to watch past the first hour.
I binged the entirety in about 24 hours.
My conclusion: Q-Force is a show on its own coming-out journey. It is desperate for approval, seeking validity through any extravagant means necessary. V, our team’s supervisor, is meant to be our one true ally – but she’s often insensitive, informing the team they’re called Q-Force by their straight colleagues because, you know, “Q for queer.” Queer is a reclaimed slur, once used against the LGBTQ+ community.
Later, when briefly firing the Q-Force, she tells them to “sashay away, agents,” which they all meekly accept and never address.
She even passes them a note from the director himself, which among language not fit for print, refers to the Q-Force team as a “lollipop brigade.” He also worries queer agents in the field will mean “somebody hurts their pronoun.”
This serves Q-Force’s apparent need to spend its first episodes punching itself, like it fears it needs to beat the audience to it.
Once it finds its own authenticity, though, it also finds a rhythm of fast-paced quips, embracing absurdity with subplots like the troubled land of Gyneorvya (Soviet-era Poland meets Santaland meets “The Princess Diaries”) and giving much-needed nods to old spy tropes (bombshell blondes and evil billionaires for all!).
When the show does invest in its characters, their interactions are warm and fun. Edgy loner Stat helps celebrate the flamboyant Twink’s birthday. Maryweather gets a date with the man next door. Deb, her wife and their pitbulls are a constant throughout Q-Force’s fluctuating quality, and the elusive V’s slow-burn backstory is dark, absorbing and surprisingly twisty.
Even Maryweather, in a rare challenge to Buck’s constant homophobia, meets yet another off-color comment with “Buck, fetch!” as he tosses a ball through a window, which the violently heterosexual lug lunges after.
By the closing scene of the final episode, I found myself almost disappointed it was over.
The show’s inconsistent character design undermines its moments of watchability. They move too fast against high-contrast, low-detail backgrounds reminiscent of construction paper collage. Jarring CGI renderings warp the visual perspective.
While the plot stumbles into something compelling, it is packed with unanswered questions – even if catty villains and chuckle-worthy one-liners (“straight men are just lesbians with longer cargo shorts, fewer skills and evil in their hearts”) cover for the worst of it.
But my biggest frustration with Q-Force is, for a show about the fight for inclusion, it is not inclusive. It leans on heavy-handed, explicit jokes rather than meaningful exploration of identity. The Q-Force itself features one main character of color.
Most hurtfully? Although it has no issue animating intercourse or voicing foul body humor, Q-Force plays it frustratingly safe on the representation front. There are no openly transgender or nonbinary characters in the entire series. Instead, they keep to the first half of LGBTQ+ rather than the full, promised spectrum. Furthermore, it fails to give homophobic antagonists any real consequence. They receive neither revenge nor redemption, or even a finger-wagging for the endless barrage of slurs and degradation.
If you want something fun, brainless, and filthy, Q-Force might be worth a shot. But if you are looking for something deeper, inclusive, accessible, and comfortable to watch – prepare to sift through an approximate four hours of eye-searing content to find the rainbow diamonds in the rough.
Photo caption: Managing Editor Ellis McGinley, a sophomore, reacting to Q-Force.
Photo Credit: Madeline S. Scharf