Why “The Boys” is Excellent Social Commentary
Television entertainment often includes a dose of social criticism (just as it, unfortunately more often, includes a heaping helping of state propaganda.) Some of the more audacious TV series, such as the 2004–2008 ABC series “Boston Legal,” have dared to wield a fair amount of snark in references to the neocon faction and its dominant role in US foreign policy. However, the new series “The Boys” has gone farther than any of its predecessors in providing a metaphor that captures the sordid underbelly of the neocon ethos.
For those of you who haven’t watched it, “The Boys” depicts a fantasy version of the US in which superheroes are relatively numerous, “differently-abled” individuals. However, unlike the traditional presentation of these creatures as plucky altruists, in this series they are like a gang of sleazebag Hollywood icons, represented by the Vought Corporation, a giant talent agency that micro-manages their careers, covers up their sexual peccadilloes, and arranges their acts of derring-do as carefully scripted photo-ops. This agency aspires to make its stable of heroes a component of the US military in order to get a slice of the Defense Department’s fabulous budget. “The Boys” refers to a rag-tag group of vigilantes who want to expose and ruin the whole project.
The cleverly-named Homelander is the perfect metaphor for neoconservatism. In front of the cameras, he is resplendent in his American flag cape and brimming with platitudes about freedom and democracy, seasoned with the occasional quotes from the Bible. Off-camera, he is brutal, sadistic, arrogant, and utterly amoral — a bonafide sociopath. He dominates The Seven, an Avengers-style team of superheroes who are the star property of the Vought Corporation.
The series probably has more sex- and violence-porn than it really needs, but perhaps the garish extremes to which it goes reflect the horrific real-life consequences that the neocon policies have produced in the past decades. After all, what was done to Colonel Gaddafi in real life is as shocking and disgusting as anything that happens in this TV series.
The series could have been brought into closer correspondence with the real world, had there been some fawning Cable News anchors clamoring for The Seven to be brought into the military, and vilifying some hapless citizens who question the wisdom of doing so. The character of Vought Corporation exec Madelyn Stillwell aptly depicts the greed and hubris of the Military-Industrial Complex.
I will warn you that the conclusion of Season 1 was just about the most depressing thing I have ever seen. I presume that was intended to compel us all to watch Season 2 in hopes of a happier ending. Regardless, I encourage the reader to watch this series, and the next time you see an American politician sanctimoniously thundering forth on Twitter or cable news, demanding that the US punish some other nation for alleged violations of the principles of Human Rights™ and Democracy™, think of Homelander.
This article is about the TV series that is available on Amazon. I haven’t read the comic books.