In one of the scenes in “The Boys”, a “superhero” named A-Train who runs faster than a bullet, accidentally runs and ruptures through the girlfriend of the main protagonist Hughie. This all happens when he is running across the street trying to “kill the bad guys and save the world”. The superhero is seen accidentally killing people. In yet another scene, Queen Maeve, a warrior princess who can destroy tow trucks and withstand airplanes pays a visit to her lover who rejects her and shames her. In yet another gut wrenching sequence, Homelander (inspired by Superman and Captain America) intervenes in a plane crash situation to save the passengers but accidentally kills the pilot. Its these contradictory and disruptive narratives which are at the center of “The Boys” which essentially questions the genre of superheroes and tends to expose the fragility of their “mystiques” and “powers”.
“The Boys” is originally an award winning graphic novel by Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson. The TV adaptation is produced by Sony and Amazon Studios. It stars Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Elizabeth Shue and a number of supporting actors. The show is written by Eric Kripke. The show is now streaming on Amazon Prime in India and rest of the world.
THE PREMISE OF THE BOYS
“THE BOYS” is the story of our world which is dominated by a group of superheroes known as “The Seven” which essentially includes a bunch of characters who have specific superhero powers and capabilities. One of them can fly, one can run faster than a train, the other pierce through trucks, they can dodge bullets, release electricity and so on! Their extended world is owned and operated by The Vaught corporation which is seen as a large corporate which “creates” and “operates” superheroes. The company controls them, their licensing and merchandising rights, their appearances, services costs etc. As is revealed, they company creates these unique beings by using a certain substance and “enhancer”. As a result, the heroes are not that “super” and need a re-charge at times. In this process, a number of innocent people become collateral damage while they are trying to save the world. In this world, a bunch of rebels who have lost their loved ones, form an alliance known as “The Boys”. They are led by Billy Butcher( Karl Urban) and include Hughie (Jack Quaid), a Ninja warrior assassin and a gadgetry and computer expert as well. They take on the mantle to sensitize the world about the true self of Vaught, its leader Madeline (Elizabeth Shue) and their true motives. The show is centered around the conflict between The Boys and Vaught Corporation.
A POWERFUL IDEA !
There can not be a better time to create an alternative perspective to Avengers/ Justice League/ Marvel/DC when they are literally controlling the alpha, beta, gamma of the popular culture and entertainment business. The show makes the brave attempt to “question the blind belief” of fans for their favorite superheroes. It can be argued that comic books essentially create the need for a positive force to voice the voiceless. Be it Stan Lee, be it Bob Kane, they all set out to create a better world. “The Boys” very skilfully assumes the fact that there can never be superheroes, but if a corporation invents a “next level enhancer”, humans can be upgraded to higher beings. However, the show puts the onus more on the “business” and “propaganda” of the superheroes rather than their powers. There is a concerted effort on showing the licensing and merchandising business. Eg. Homelander who looks a lot like Captain America is shown selling his colas, his action figures, his apparel, etc in a blatant way. Vaught Corporation is also seen creating a “Jesus” like character who absolves people of their sins by making them take a “dip” in holy water.
In my view, the show takes an in depth look at the fears of the human race. The writers feel that the bulk of humanity is going through a very tough existence and they are in dire need of saviors and larger than life demagogues. This can be debated but the fact that self styled Godmen (like in India), motivational speakers, spiritual gurus too exude a similar kind of persona of “solving your problems” are immensely popular. “The Boys” seems to hit a chord emotionally with people in reality. So, the show might be fictitious in its content but the germ of the idea of this story stems from reality!
The “Starlight” character and its importance
“Starlight” played by Erin Moriarty one of “The Seven” is a light emitting hero who wants to genuinely help people. She is the voice of reason in Vaught’s arsenal. She rebels and openly disassociates herself from the motives of the management team. Although she has powers but she refuses to be part of any hypocritical marketing and sales pitches. Her character brings depth to the conflict between Vaught and The Boys.
Should you watch it?
I think “The Boys” will create nuanced superhero viewing and brings a fresh perspective to the universe of superheroes and comics. In my mind, “The Seven” are highly flawed and the same flaws can exist in “Avengers” and “Justice League”. Vaught is modeled as a sinister version of S.H.E.I.L.D . Although I feel the content of DC/Marvel does not take a stand on the commercialization of its heroes in their “stories and issues” but they do mint a lot of dollars in the licensing/syndication, etc. business in the real world.
Karl Urban stands out as the British/American FBI Agent who turns rogue to avenge the death of his wife. Jack Quaid (son of Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan) packs a punch in his debut performance. Elizabeth Shue is devilishly attractive in her first outing in a negative role. The rest of the cast also doesn’t disappoint.
I would give this TV Show 8 out of 10 as its bold in its tonality and creates a convincing view of the world it creates!