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The Anti-Heroes of The Boys

The Boys takes an unexpectedly dark twist on your run-of-the-mill superhero show: tearing faces off, intense superpower fuelled chases through skyscrapers, and culty religious pandering in miniskirts: the show lives up to its TV-MA rating. The show explores capitalism, misogyny, class, corporate structure, and public relations within the narrowed view of superheroes as celebrities- it is all very FIMS-y. The Boys premiered mere months after the super-giant, Marvel released the top-grossing superhero film: Avengers Endgame, allowing audiences to draw parallels on the way we view superheroes presented in different contexts, directly reflecting heroes we recognize from the Justice League or Avengers. The show even plays on themes that we can recognize from Disney's Incredibles and ages them up, from the destruction of cities to unwanted super intervention. The show is actually based on a comic series initially distributed by DC comics.

This show exists in a somewhat difficult realm that is oversaturated with superhero content but simultaneously requires it to exist as a whole. The show plays on the premise of a world not unlike our own, in which superheroes are real, omnipresent, and idolized more than any civilian celebrity ever could be. The superheroes (or “supes”) in The Boys realm are commercialized to the greatest extent, from film to product endorsement, and even as military propaganda, more so than any influencer or Disney character combined.

The show expertly deconstructs our preconceived notions of what we expect superhero stories to be while satirically integrating them within corporate structures, governmental authority, and media presentation. It not only presents superheroes as the perfectly constructed corporate apparatuses, but also as their flawed, conceited, fame-hungry, violent, humanity: wreaking havoc in the name of “saving the world”.

The acting performances, worldbuilding, costumes, and writing are all done impeccably. Every character is explored, given depth, and performed beautifully by the entire team. The Boys is cynical and ultra-violent, with extremely explicit language, images, and themes including sexual assault, misogyny, white nationalism and eugenics, genetic engineering, and plenty of murder.

The show is extremely current, making reference to normalized things we experience daily, given an all-new intensity with the presence of superheroes, from active shooter drills in elementary schools and the controversial arming of teachers to be replaced with supervillain drills, or the desperate appeals to feminism through strong female characters in the MCU, peeling back the curtain to see the public relations appeals. Season one gives you a taste of the parallels we can recognize, but season two widens the scope.

The show leaves you wanting more. With the world they have constructed, they could easily develop a prequel season divulging into the beginning of “supes”, their rise, and their existence before the namesake group of boys intervenes. For someone who is not much of a superhero/action genre fan, the snippets giving us background, simply letting the characters breathe and develop were some of the best parts. It allows for audiences to really dive into the structures created and analyze them against our current culture of celebrity. To criticize, The Boys is lacking in its treatment of minority characters and relies heavily on the male perspective that is also trying to critique. It discusses issues within minority communities, such as the desire for heteronormative gender roles in a femme lesbian relationship and a “#HeroesSoWhite” social media campaign, but still has opportunities to improve on its own presentation of these communities.

Watch The Boys on Prime Video

TW: Scenes of explicit violence, drug use, suicide, sex, and abuse occur regularly

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