With its outrageous gore, constant cursing, social criticism and naïve lost boy Hughie, Amazon’s ‘The Boys’ is everything Marvel wishes it was. At the forefront of this ambitious satire of superhero tropes, is its refusal to sugarcoat anything – in the opening scenes, we see two severed human forearms, setting the tone for future gore sequences that serve not as a shock, but rather as a reality check. Instead of the ‘Supes’ [a brilliantly constructed team of satirically modelled pseudo-heroes based on Captain America, Batman and more] being the heroes saving the day, we are instead treated to a show where the superheroes are the enemy. At its heart, ‘The Boys’ is a social commentary urging its watchers to critique the media and to recognise social media, extreme capitalism and weapon commercialisation as inherent flaws in our system. It raises issues surrounding sexual assault, victim-blaming, government jurisdiction and national agency which are predominantly absent in Marvel. In ‘The Boys’ you get all this and a few hundred expletives thrown in for good measure.
The social commentary is brave and at times outrageously close to the bone. There’s even nods to public distrust of charities following scandals such as that in Haiti involving the Red Cross and Oxfam, direct critiques of Trump and other nationalists like him with ‘God Bless America!’ chants ringing reminiscent of a Trump rally in a scene involving Homelander. Each episode has countless critiques, primarily of America, but its prudent message is applicable globally – to be wary of what we are and are not shown.
The Boys even ends ambitiously. There is no nice convenient tying up of events that we even see in Marvel’s ‘Civil War’ following two hours of internal warring between two of Marvel’s landmark superheroes. It’s refreshing and raises queries – is Marvel too sugary, too easy to watch, too neatly tied up? The Boys is challenging and at times a hard watch but it’s a badly overdue new genre of superhero media; it’s not cheering for governments and nationalists; it’s slating them.
Season two of The Boys is currently available on Amazon Prime with new episodes streaming every Friday.
Image Credit: IMDb