By Jason Thai
Streaming on Amazon Prime, The Boys is a superhero television show that parodies DC Comics’ most popular heroes. In most stories, superheroes act to protect the innocent and to stop crime but, in this universe, they are owned by “Vought International”, a large American corporation that markets their image and abilities to make money. The story follows a non-superpowered being named Hughie who lives in New York City (which is also home to the headquarters Vought International). Hughie has a run-in with A-Train (a superhero who has the ability to move very fast, a parody of DC’s the Flash) a member of “The Seven,” a group of seven superheroes that are the most powerful and influential that Vought has teamed together (a direct parody of DC’s Justice League seven most influential heroes). After A-Train wrongs him, Hughie teams up with Billy Bishop and his boys to get his revenge on the superhero, The Seven, and Vought.
In the show, superheroes are treated similar to how actors and pro athletes are treated in our world — as celebrities. The superheroes from The Boys are a parallel to how celebrities are treated and act in our world. By showing the illusion of fame from the perspective of an outsider, The Boys explores how money and status can corrupt someone, turning them into a selfish and despicable person. This is best shown through Starlight, a young up and coming superhero that just got into “The Seven”, who exemplifies what it’s like to become famous and achieve celebrity status for the first time. At first, she starts off optimistic, seeing her new career at Vought as the job of a lifetime and something that she worked her whole life to achieve. However, as soon as she meets “The Deep”–one of The Seven–he demands that she offer herself sexually to him or else he threatens to go to Vought’s higher ups and demand she be removed from the team. Moments such as this parallel how many young people can be taken advantage as they begin their career in the entertainment industry in order to achieve their dreams.
In another moment, there is a scene where Starlight uses the washroom, and “Translucent”, a superhero that can turn invisible (and a parody of Martian Manhunter), is revealed to regularly go in the women’s washroom for his own pleasure. Meanwhile, other female superheroes that have been in Vought for years before Starlight arrived have come to accept his behaviour, mirroring how men such as Harvey Weinstein in the industry over the last few years have taken advantage of their position to regularly harass women. For years, accusations such as these have been ‘known’ amongst industry insiders with nothing actually done. All of a sudden, Starlight’s eyes are opened to the realities of life as a superhero and that much of their image has been created by the marketing of Vought, to sell as “products” to the masses.
Furthermore, after A-Train, the superhero speedster, accidently runs into his girlfriend, he splatters her like a train hitting a person and attempts to get legal revenge ultimately fail. A-Train as a celebrity. As a result, with a team of lawyers supported by Vought, A-Train is able to avoid any legal repercussions from committing manslaughter and pay his way out of the situation, in the same way that athletes are given special privilege in our world,
Overall, I enjoyed The Boys. The show is a refreshing take and parody of our most iconic and popular heroes. The show realistically depicts how people would really act if having powers granting them great physical advantages over others. Superhuman abilities, money, and fame are backed by a corrupt company doing anything it can to make as much money as possible and, as a result, the film does a good job showing the temptation to abuse one’s power. I also enjoyed the many side character storylines that existed within The Boys, and how people in the entertainment industry face challenges and live their lives. One example of this comes through A-Train’s journey to stay the fastest speedster despite the threat of younger speedsters who wish to challenge his title. Fearing that he will lose his place on The Seven if he’s no longer the fastest, he trains his hardest but to no avail. Forced to do whatever it takes to maintain his wealth and status, he takes a superhero steroid that slowly kills him, but grants him speed boosts to compete with the younger speedsters. The story is clearly a call back the temptation of athletes to “dope” at the cost of their bodies to stay on top and it demonstrates the grittiness that the show needs. (Personally, I enjoyed the direction they went with how dark certain moments of the show became.) What’s more, The Boys also does a good job of allowing side characters to go on their own journey of growth and have interesting interactions and character dynamics in every scene.
In conclusion, The Boys was a great show that parodied our iconic superheroes and showed paralleled our celebrities. Not being afraid to tackle all issues that people in the entertainment industry face, the series grittiness showcases the abuse of people at the hands of those in power.