In the Summer of 2019, I long for a time when we superheroes weren’t as ubiquitous in pop culture. There was a time when we would be thrilled at the glimpse of a costumed super-powered being on a screen but those days are long gone. With the market being over-saturated with the omnipresence of Marvel Studios and DC, it still piques my interest to see another network or studio take a stab at the superhero world, especially on the television screen and The Boys is no different.
Based on the comics by Darick Robertson and Garth Ennis, the show seems to be satirizing our current obsession with superheroes by creating a world very similar to ours with the addition of powered men and women running/flying around. Some of these superheroes are supported by the mega-corporation, Vought, but the main thing about these “supes” is that they’re all terrible people. Seriously, The Boys is about how superheroes are bad. That’s it. And their terribleness leads to the existence of the group known as The Boys, a group of regular guys dedicated to exposing the supes or eradicating them.
The main theme of the show is that “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and we see that idea play out in majority of the characters. As messed up as the “heroes” might be, The Boys’ objective to destroy them might take them down a darker path as well. The show is about as a subtle as a sledgehammer with the message that it’s trying to relay to us. Due to this, the show might come off at times as gratuitous in its violence or perverse nature, assaulting the viewer’s senses in this way enforces the theme that these are all terrible people willing to do terrible things because of the power society has placed on them.
It’s an interesting idea, showing that even the once-incorruptible bastion of the superhero can be tainted by capitalism and algorithms leading to an obnoxious business partnership. The issue I have with the show’s first season, however, is that while they’re dedicated to subverting the usual tropes of superhero shows, it doesn’t do much after that. Yes, the heroes are bad and power corrupts, but it doesn’t have much more to say after that other than “hey, people suck”. It doesn’t feel like we really got an opportunity to explore these characters as much and see how power or literal powers might actually change a person’s outlook or disposition.
It’s still a compelling watch, despite that criticism. The show proves to be an accurate portrayal of our world today. It shows us that everything can be marketed and commercialized from superheroes to sexual assault, if the right spin is put on it. The show’s cynical approach works as the antithesis to the MCU’s Endgame which also came out this summer. It’s just that while The Boys does a great job tearing down these idealistic views we have of superheroes and our world today, it doesn’t leave anything left standing in its place.