I’ve recommended a few Masks: A New Generation actual plays at this point. From the amazing school days of Unlabelled. To the always entertaining and oft-times bizarre Critical Bits. And these stories, for all their hilarity, are no strangers to dark moments. However, today we are going to be talking about an actual play that began as something quite light only to transition to a very real dark side. And did it oh-so-well.
Today, we are going to be talking about Rollout Podcast. In particular, we are going to be talking about their longest running and, in my opinion, the most beautifully painful series: The Young Vanguard.
(Content Warning: This podcast and article deals with issues such as queerphobia, misgendering and parental abuse. Please put your comfort and safety first before reading)
Spoilers for events up until episode eight of Rollout.
Rollout’s session 0 sets quite a scene as the group puts their team together. And in typical endorsement fashion, I am going to list them.
- The Get-Up Noise AKA Ian Hanert is played by @UnclePetunio. He is an aspiring dubstep musician with a majority of followers that share much in common with robots. This, combined with his sound manipulation, leads to many hilarious moments. Until you find out how he got them.
- Beep-Boop, played by @Anxious_robots is a Newborn with an affinity for cursing and an assortment of different forms. Sometimes not always by her choice.
- Boom AKA Paige O’Grady played by @itshamhocks is a burning and powerful font of cosmic energy that also happens to be a metaphor for her journey to coming out of the closet. We got real X-Men parallels in here y’all and I love it!
- Pippa-Just Pippa- played by @GLLotG is a non-binary heliokinetic who also happens to be an internet sensation. Only, they’re soon coming to discover why the social media entrepreneur life is not one that so easily meshes well in a team.
Together, this group forms the Young Vanguard. Named for the fact that they are the teenage proteges of the premier team of the world, The Vanguard.
Living in Tark Tower (No relation to the a certain man of iron) they get up to hijinks such as facing down the malicious Mackrlemore, starting raves with no permission from their elders, and dealing with fans who wish to ship either “PipUp” or “Bippa”. (Don’t ship real people. This has been a PSA)
And yet, while the group excels at these comedic moments, the show truly shines in what I mentioned above. In how each scene that’s played for comedy often hides something darker beneath.
The show does not shy away from the serious moments that would come for such a team of diverse identities and characters.
- Pippa’s player acknowledges that Rory Tark, leader of the Vanguard (once again, no relation) adopted them likely due to it being “good PR” to take in a disadvantaged LGBTQAI+ teen who was thrown out by their parents. Furthermore, the fact they are a social media icon slowly begins affecting their life. Such as how they make borderline parasocial demands of them, toxic and demanding friends in the support crew, and the damage so much fame and attention on someone so young would cause.
- Beep-Boop often seems to take things in stride. However when their body is forcibly altered in a fight against a villain, their discomfort with having their form non-consensually altered is very clear. And as a trans person, VERY relatable. Furthermore, they soon begin to discover that their history and creation is not so cut and dry as “would-be-doombot of evil genius”.
- Boom often mentions as she comes to the realization of her orientation that her parents are “traditional”. Through flashbacks, we see how queer people were viewed by her parents and it is not fun. When she finally meets with her family after teaming up, Paige being forced to keep her frustration and temper under control when her parents deem people like Pippa as “Not right” is very relatable to many a time when I had to pick discretion over valor when dealing with family.
- Finally, the one that likely hit me the deepest. Get-Up, despite originally coming off as a loud shitlord, is later revealed to be someone who desperately has no sense of identity. Jumping from cello to dubstep music was an early symbol of this. Finally, Ian soon discovers that even his powers are not a part of him, having been bought by his rich and ignorant parents.
There is one particular scene, when Get-Up Noise calls out his parents for their mistreatment of him and tampering with who he is, where his father strikes him.
This was the first and only time I ever had to take a break from a podcast. It was one of the few times I felt an emotional and visceral reaction from something I was listening to. When Get-Up immediately teleports away and simply cries alone after this, I was taken back to my own memories of dealing with abuse. Where no matter the attitude and bluster you may put up, at the end of the day you’re just a kid being hurt by someone who should know better.
And that’s what this show is. It’s about superheroes taking up a legacy, sure. But I feel it’s greatest strength comes from the quiet moments where the superheroics emphasizes the teenage isolation you felt so often.
In Boom, I saw when you’re a young queer kid who doesn’t know why the world is the way it is.
In Pippa, I saw when too much is being demanded of you.
In Beep-Boop, I saw when you don’t know who you are or what your goal/purpose in life is.
In Get-Up, I saw how lonely it feels to live with someone who doesn’t care for you.
These are all moments I’ve experienced in my life. And Rollout is the first to capture this perfectly and I cannot admire them enough for it.
Cos sometimes, we need the messy narratives. It’s good to look to ideal versions of how things should be when we need hope. But they can make those of us who went through the hard rough feel like we were wrong to go through what we did. In these messy and struggling stories, they tell us that what we went through happens. That we’re not alone.
What I’m saying at the end of the day here is:
Listen to the Young Vanguard. But please be prepared. Because it pulls no punches.