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Swarm TV Series: A Delicious yet Dreadful Visual Feast

Swarm TV series header

Isn’t it poetic justice that we’ve become obsessed with a show about obsession?

By Monique Bell, Ph.D.


Social media is abuzz with debate and reflection on the Swarm TV series, found on Amazon Prime Video. The Internet hasn’t seen such fervor over a show with a predominantly Black cast since the surreal “Atlanta” ended its run. The cultural commentary has been on a spectrum from praise to perplexion to apathy. 

Those who laud “Swarm” often speak to the perverse empowerment it delivers by centering on a Black woman serial killer. Except for recent artists such as Sza’s spellbinding “Kill Bill,” the breakthrough drama “How to Get Away with Murder,” featuring EGOT award-winner Viola Davis, and the novel “My Sister the Serial Killer,” it is rare to see Black women unhinged to the degree of murder; let alone, multiple murders of known and unknown victims. It is a poignant, albeit a grossly disturbing, example of #representationmatters. Neither People of Color nor women nor women of color are monoliths that share a singular experience. *SPOILERS*


Notice all of the human twins and other "doubles" in multiple scenes in the tv series Swarm


Two sides to one coin in the Swarm TV series

A key point of the series is duality. None of the characters is just one thing. The main character, Andrea (Dre) Greene, is pitiable and despicable. The truck driver, Tonk, is a Good Samaritan, a loving father, and an online antagonist. Marissa is both supremely confident and self-assured yet suicidal. Everyone is capable of good and evil. 

This duality further extends between the characters, many depicting two sides of one coin. Marissa is outgoing, talented, and romantically experienced, while Dre is awkward, distant, and infantile. It seems her development was arrested during her early years, leaving her craving a mother’s nurturing. The series also mirrors “acceptable” addiction to daily coffee or never-ending screen time versus “irresponsible” addictions to unhealthy foods and trans-fat-filled junk snacks. 

The twin motif pulls from reality when you consider that sisters Chloe (who plays Marissa in “Swarm”) and Halle Bailey are often seemingly joined at the hip and the barely-disguised muse for Ni’Jah, Beyonce, is the mother of twins and the Bailey sisters’ real-life mentor. Further, Beyonce and her sister, Solange, are often projected as foils of one another — one the ultimate pop queen and the other soulful and serious. Within the series, twins are opaquely present in the background of multiple scenes.


What IS up with the food in Swarm?

The Janus faces of life and death, wealth and poverty, and male and female also are apparent explicitly and implicitly as the series progresses. Among the other visual motifs are the high-contrast color pairs of red and blue and the ubiquitous, bee-themed black and yellow.  And ivy plants abound in multiple characters’ homes. 

Then, there’s the food.  Although Dre indulges in low-nutritional value foods, she staunchly responds, “I don’t drink,” when offered alcohol. This may be due to unhealthy of by Jackson, Sr., who we see with a presumably alcoholic drink and later learn that he passed away due to pancreatic cancer. 


Going down the proverbial honeycomb.

Here are some un-bee-lievable facts:

  • Bees are matriarchal (of course, with a Queen Bee); all workers are female, while male bees are shiftless drones. 
  • In the bee world, they feed before swarming, an act of colony reproduction. Through the looking-glass, Dre kills then gorges herself on the nearest confections. 
  • Bees have a sweet tooth, as it were. They prefer nectar, a sugar-laden fluid excreted by flowers. Interestingly, “Flowers in the Attic” is referenced, and while living with the Jacksons, Dre is sequestered in the attic. 
  • Like Dre, bees communicate through movements that look like dancing. 

Beyond the screen: Is the Swarm TV series a true story?

In true Donald Glover fashion, “Swarm” extends beyond the screen with one episode featuring a true crime documentary of the Dre Greene dramatization the audience has viewed up until that point. Additionally, viewers can become immersed in the show by texting Dre’s mobile phone number. All of this alludes to the reality that versions of Dre certainly exist among us. Notably, some scenes’ absurdity is rooted in true occurrences during the series’ timeframe (2016 – 2018). For example, a young Black woman was found to have “accidentally” died in a Chicago hotel refrigerator, not unlike the food-addicted concert technician seen in a later episode. 

The consensus seems that the visual feast and symbolically rich “Swarm” has concluded as a series, leaving viewers ready to watch for a third time — and wondering if it’s based on a true story or seamlessly crafted stan fiction. 

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