The Boys: A Suprisingly Relevant Show
By Teun Snijder
November 2nd, 2020
Imagine super heroes in modern day America… but they’re all assholes. That was presumably the pitch for the Amazon Prime’s show The Boys. A cynical critique that tries to humanize the people with godlike powers popular culture has glorified over the past decade. The very well known marvel cinematic universe has produced movies over the past 12 years following very similar story structures and frankly not very complex characters. Though those heroes often face impossible odds, they always come out on top and rarely end up at a darker side, The Boys, however, does explore a darker side.
The writers asked a set of realistic questions to develop their characters. How would a superman-like figure raised in a lab without parents act? He would become an attention-hungry sociopath and a class book narcissist. What would a man with the ability to talk to fish be like? Everybody treats him like a joke so he takes away the dignity of the women he has sex with to make sure they can’t make fun of him anymore. A man with extreme speed abilities? He would be an overachieving athlete. Invisible man? He’d be a creepy pervert because he knows how to get away with it.
The Boys starts off as many romantic stories do: a lovely couple, hugh and his girlfriend, stands near the side of the road declaring their love for each other and planning to move in together, when the character Hugh watches his girlfriend turn into an explosion of blood, organs and broken bones as the fastest man alive runs through her. Hugh is approached by the Butcher, a man on a revenge quest against all superheroes, because he’s already aware of the shocking reality that these perfect people are not perfect. With a common goal they try to uncover the mysteries behind these supernatural beings to take them down. The show is gory, uncensored and unpredictable, but most importantly the show has a surprising cultural relevance. It criticizes toxic masculinity, capitalism, celebrity culture, drug use, racial violence and gun laws among others.
This political agenda sounds like a formula for failure. As history in movies and TV shows has shown us, writers trying to shove a message through our throats is often perceived as unnecessary and annoying. However, The Boys faces these issues with a nuance unlike many others. An interesting trick the visual medium can accomplish is transporting us to a place beyond our own reality, giving us the chance to step away from the lens for about an hour per episode to assess situations in a more unbiased way and that’s something this show does greatly. It uses this skill to educate the audience in a way that never feels preachy or disrespectful.
The show is a recommendation for everyone who has enjoyed superhero movies in the past and is curious about a fresh perspective. The 2 seasons can be binge-watched in their entirety on Prime video and it is worth the free trial subscription.