Some thoughts on The Boys

It’s a tough time for satire. The Trump Circus is so insane, so flamboyantly, egregiously stupid, that it’s impossible to address it head on. Saturday Night Live gave up a long time ago, it merely sums up the week’s events in a slightly more cartoonish delivery.

In order to satirize the unthinkable, you have to approach it from a different angle. Horror has always been good at this, allowing people to experience the terrors of everyday life through the lens of metaphor. The hellscape of 1968 was perfectly encapsulated in the movie that sprang from it, Night of the Living Dead, and They Live was, if anything, too blunt a metaphor for the Reagan era.

Amazon’s The Boys, based on a comic of the same name, has emerged as the most relevant show of the day, taking all the ugliness, greed, desperation and horror of our present moment and adding just one pop-culture ingredient to make it palatable: superheroes.

The premise, at first, sounds merely waggish: what if the Justice League were assholes? But, like, really, really, unredeemable assholes? But then it goes deeper, much deeper, as it presents a world where there are superheroes, but the superheroes are controlled by a REAL superpower, a gigantic multi-national corporation. This corporation promotes its superheroes as media stars, putting them into movies and TV shows, promoting their Instagram accounts, organizing Twitter armies to sway public opinion about them, creating their personas and origin stories, and, above all, keeping the public constantly entertained by their antics in order to cover up the many, many horrendous crimes they commit.

Does this sound familiar?

The show is not for everyone — it’s not just caustic in its satire, it’s positively scabrous, presenting a harsh, scorched-earth vision of a world where there is no real good, only different aspects of evil. There is nothing pure in its world, nothing is left untouched by its brackish, curdled moral sense. It’s pungently profane, and baroquely gory. People are routinely dismembered and beheaded, when they’re not exploding outright, but, for my money, that profanity and violence is the best mirror we currently have in a world where there really are people above the law, backed by moneyed interests with power beyond our imagining, who blithely circumnavigate the globe crushing the weak beneath their heels.


2 Responses to “Some thoughts on The Boys”
  1. rmd1023 says:

    Interesting. I watched a bit but decided that at that time, I wasn’t up for something where everyone is an asshole who I don’t like. It’s good to know it’s good stuff – I’ll give it another shot again when my mood allows. Thanks!

  2. drcheese says:

    the just-concluded season 2 was brilliant. it’s a bit ironic having a show with a strong critique of megacorporations on amazon prime but at the end of the day if ratings are good i’m sure bezos will be all too happy to keep it going.

    i haven’t read the original comics (and likely never will) but from what i’ve seen of them and what i’ve read elsewhere, the show is a big improvement on its source material.