Superheroes have never captured my attention. It’s just that every movie is the same to me– a good guy puts on an incredibly well-tailored suit, fights a bad guy, saves their city (which for some reason is always somewhere in New York), kisses the girl in the end, and so on. Sure, I did go through a Spider-Man phase the summer of my freshman year, but that wasn’t because of the allurement of a radioactive spider. It was about the allurement of Andrew Garfield.
I always feel FOMO when a new Marvel movie comes out. When a TikTok of Wandavision appears on my FYP, I wish I understood why the video has over 100k likes. And I’ve tried to get into superhero things. I really have. I’ve sat through numerous movies. I’ve tried watching all the trending TV shows. I’ve even read a handful of comics (that I pretended to like to impress a guy, but that’s another article.) I just seem to never be able to immerse myself into the world that is being created in front of me. A few weeks ago, I was sitting on the bed of a boy who had a huge Marvel obsession… Funko Pops, posters, t-shirts, the whole 9 yards. As he was trying to explain the significance of the golden hand statue with sparkly colored stones at the knuckles, all I kept thinking was how can I explain to this boy that I have absolutely no idea what he is talking about, and also I kind of don’t want to know.
Knowing my aversion to the superhero genre, I really do not know what possessed me to click on Amazon Prime’s Gen V in the first place. It could have been the fact that I am a sucker for any YA romance show with a promising love triangle. It could also have been the promotional pictures of Jaz Sinclair and Derek Luh.
Nevertheless, I was hooked by the end of the first episode. It surprised me by how real it felt–like a dark teen drama featuring superhero abilities vs. a superhero show with teens. It’s somber and gory. So incredibly gory. If you can’t stomach seeing large amounts of fake blood, do not watch. But it also has the lightheartedness that you expect from a show with teens as the main characters. Each character’s powers are unique (while some are just cheesy, I will admit.) There’s romance, LGBTQ+ representation that feels real, and twisted storylines that I personally have never seen from any superhero franchise. So when I learned that this gloomy world was also home to The Boys, I knew I had to give it a watch.
I’ve seen ads for the show since its premiere in 2019. Though seeing clips of Gossip Girl’s Chance Crawford as a merman did entice me, it was never enough for me to think that this show would be the exception to my superhero aversion. I was wrong.
The Boys challenges everything that I don’t find appealing about the Marvel Universe. Unlike Superman, front-man Homelander is basically unredeemable. Once I started watching, I realized that most of the characters in The Boys absolutely suck–and that’s why I love it. In a world where Superman is synonymous with “being good,” it was refreshing to see such a widely different take on a patriotic hero. Every character murders. Most are selfish, cruel, jealous, and all the other ugly traits that are reserved only for villains in typical superhero movies. In the world of The Boys, we see these characters worshipped by the city they “protect,” when in reality they are leaps more corrupt than the people cheering them on. And just when you start to truly hate all the characters, we start seeing tidbits of humanity within them.
Each and every character has a complex origin story, heartache and loss, and love intertwined. I found myself secretly hoping for some happiness to find the characters that have done the most unforgivable things (I kind of like the Deep. IYKYK. Sue me.) The “heroes” in the world of The Boys are human. They put their own interests first. They crave love. We see them struggle to make the right choices–and a lot of the time they don’t.
Of course, the series does take huge inspiration from the superheroes we have grown up with. Homelander is Superman. Queen Maeve is Wonder Woman. Black Noir is Batman. And while these classic heroes are reminiscent in their costumes, that is where the comparison ends. While Superman is the epitome of loyalty, Homelander betrays everyone who puts the slightest bit of trust in him. While Wonder Woman is the poster girl for an All-American female, Queen Maeve defies this by exploring her sexuality and the corruption of being a “supe.” When looking at DC or Marvel, these heroes embody restraint, kindness, loyalty, and bravery. The heroes in The Boys use their powers without caution, at the expense of every normal human around them. And though this may be a pessimistic view, I really do think this is what the world would be if we really had superheroes. When put in a place of power, humans get greedy. They get selfish. They get scared. They lie, steal, and cheat. This is the world of The Boys.
Even if superheroes aren’t necessarily your thing, I still think The Boys is worth a watch. It isn’t just a superhero show. It’s a reminder that even those with extraordinary abilities are still subject to human weaknesses. It challenged my aversion to the genre by showing that not all superhero stories have to be about the rise and fall of a villain, but rather the burden of having the title of a “hero.”