Unlearning Shame
July 26, 2019

Why ‘Tuca & Bertie’ Is The Sex-Positive Show We All Needed

Tuca & Bertie was canceled, but its message of empowerment for women lives on.
Written by
Olivia Harvey
Published on
July 26, 2019
Updated on
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On July 24, Netflix announced Tuca & Bertie will not be renewed for a second season. This comes as a great disappointment as the women-led show helps reshape what it means to be a woman in the modern era. With Lisa Hanawalt at the helm, and Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong as leads, Tuca & Bertie also helps normalize sex-positivity for the mainstream. 

In a statement to Variety, Netflix stated, “We’re grateful to Lisa, and her fellow executive producers...and EP/stars Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong, along with all of the writers and animators for sharing the funny and dynamic female bird duo of Tuca and Bertie with the world. While Tuca & Bertie won’t have a second season, we’re proud to feature this story on Netflix for years to come.”

Though we’re saying goodbye to Tuca & Bertie, its impact remains. The show empowers female-identifying viewers in a way that isn’t done in mainstream media very often.

In the show, Tiffany Haddish and Ali Wong play the titular characters who attempt (and sometimes fail) to navigate the realities of being 30-year-old women — bird-women, that is. These realities include learning to love their bodies, grappling with romances, and being the best BFFs they can be to each other.

The show’s characters go through relatable, real-life situations — dealing with dating, pubic hair, STIs, etc. — that might be uncomfortable to talk about or share for some. Tuca & Bertie, however, successfully present each scenario through comedy, which helps show there’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed — despite what society might have us believe. 

The show’s creator, Hanawalt, who is also the production designer and producer of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman, told NowThis back on June 21 that she hopes Tuca & Bertie inspires young women to break out of the oftentimes restrictive societal mold of womanhood that has been passed down through the generations. 

“It’s ok to be gross, and horny, and funny,” Hanawalt said. “You don’t have to be perfect at all times, the way women are expected to be.”

Haddish added that the show talks about things that are “normal” and “healthy.”  “And if you feel a little bit weird about it, laugh, laugh real hard,” Hadish told NowThis. “And then try to figure out why do you feel weird?”

Tuca & Bertie also touches on more serious issues, such as consent. In the third episode, for example,  Bertie asks her boyfriend to experiment with dominant-submissive roleplay and spanking. Bertie enjoys it at first, but then feels uncomfortable and starts crying. Once her boyfriend sees her apparent discomfort, he stops immediately.  This sends the important message that consent should be asked and given throughout a session, not just at the beginning. 

Tuca & Bertie also addresses the cultural shame around STIs when Tuca openly talks about her sex life and reveals she needs medication for her “sex bugs.” Tuca tells Bertie, who doesn’t shame her, but instead accompanies her to the pharmacy. The way Tuca & Bertie handles the situation is exemplary: If you or a friend has an STI (over 2.2 million Americans are reported to have an STI), there is no reason to feel ashamed.

“I just wanted to make an animated adult comedy about these issues because I just hadn’t seen that before, and I was basically just making the show that I want to see,” Hanawalt continued, later adding that she doesn’t want females in the film and television industry to be seen as “niche” anymore. 

Luckily, you can still watch Season 1 on Netflix. Here’s the trailer below:

Hanawalt, Haddish, and Wong truly created something utterly hilarious and forever empowering. Even though it was canceled, shows like this pave the way for women, to be, well, women. Hopefully, Tuca & Bertie is only the beginning. While it only ran for one season, the show still made some much-needed progress on TV.  We need more women accurately representing the wide experiences of what it means to be female-identifying in the world today, and how it can be funny, scary, gross, and exciting all at once. We’ll miss you, Tuca and Bertie.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Olivia Harvey is a freelance writer and award-winning screenwriter from Boston, Massachusetts.

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