Season 3 of The Boys has become an eye-opening experience for some. The superhero satire has grown far blunter and much more vicious in what it wants to skewer most. In the past two seasons, the show has satirized a bit of everything: superhero media, political cover-ups, corporate corruption, and eugenics just to name a few. With the current season, there’s no mistaking what the series is talking about: fascism, white supremacy, police brutality, and far-right nationalism. And there is 100% no way to misinterpret this by episode five when the racist vigilante Blue Hawk starts yelling “All Lives Matter.”
For the viewers who could read between the lines, this shifting to a louder and more prominent topic wasn’t a shock. It was just The Boys being The Boys, albeit with bolder font than before. But for those who only watched the show in a vacuum, mistaking its cultural commentary as mere absurd escapism, the show seemed to have gone downhill by just now, in this very season, getting too political. And as the meme goes of the astronaut pointing a gun at his co-worker after discovering a secret in space, it always was political.
This discovery sent shockwaves across Reddit as users revealed just how little they understood of the show or the political messaging present. The ground broke for many with the scene of Blue Hawk making a public apology. Blue Hawk is a superhero with enhanced strength who specifically targets African-American communities and unjustly murders those he deems as criminals. This topic is brought up to the black superhero A-Train in episode four, leading to him talking Blue Hawk into apologizing to the African-American community in episode five.
But Blue Hawk sucks at apologizing and immediately goes to a lot of talking points that racists fall back on. “I go where the crime is.” “I have black friends.” “African-Americans commit most of the crime.” “All Lives Matter.” And, just to add a bit more absurdity, “All Supes Matter.” Blue Hawk then storms out of the community center, getting into a fight, and seriously injuring residents who protest against his refusal to apologize or improve the community. He later goes on television and blames the violence on Antifa.
Based on the Reddit reactions, some viewers really did seem to like Blue Hawk but not for his intent as a mockery of racists hiding behind common conservative talking points. He was always meant to be a clown representing police brutality. And yet his antagonism didn’t become apparent to some until he fumbled his apology and started fighting African-Americans. It seemed to come out of left field even though it didn’t.
Surprisingly, this misreading even applied to Homelander. Homelander is by far the series’ most dangerous villain and if it wasn’t crystal clear in the past two seasons, it should be unmistakable in season three. How so many viewers thought he was a protagonist for two seasons is hard to say. Maybe they just really wanted to see Superman use his heat vision to kill more people. Maybe they thought he was just briefly led astray by the superhero Stormfront, a literal Nazi who filled his head with racist and genocidal ideas. Maybe it’s his bitter desire to be a father to his son developing superpowers. Maybe the pre-season anthology of The Boys: Diabolical made Homelander seem too sympathetic for his origin story depicting a fairly innocent superhero who found himself getting too comfortable with corruption.
Well, in case you needed it spelled out for you, there are zero sympathies left for Homelander in season three. He gives up most of the facade and becomes an egotistical dictator of his own company, focusing more on appealing to his media perceptions and violently turning on anyone even thinking about turning against him. Is he Donald Trump? Sure, but he also represents a greater threat of fascism with many of his talking points, essentially regurgitating the intent of Stormfront in a way that is more palatable for closeted fascists. I’m sorry it took you this long to realize the superhero whose final scene in season two was masturbating over a city while angrily whispering that he can do anything he wants is the bad guy. But he is.
And so the Reddit users who idolized characters like Blue Hawk and Homelander were faced with the comical yet telling question born from the Mitchell & Webb meme: “Are we the baddies?”
But, of course, there will be an unwillingness to accept this ignorance and thus queues the Principal Skinner meme of, “No, it’s the children who are wrong.”
These reactionary responses to The Boys suddenly turning against the political beliefs of the right is sadly not an uncommon revelation. It comes from an inability to read what a piece of media is saying about our world and what it wants to target. This inability to recognize the stance of the series beyond the ultraviolence and absurd play on superhero sensationalism makes the blatant mockery of right-wing politics seem sudden. To them, a good show was ruined by “wokeness,” a term of slander that at this point has lost all meaning and is now just a buzzword for “things right-wing folks hate in media.”
Media in the past few years has become far blunter as a means of making it clear where that media stands. This is mostly because some media has been misread for the wrong message by the worst people.
A perfect example of this is John Carpenter’s They Live, a sci-fi action picture where aliens are discovered when special sunglasses reveal their concealment. The film is satirizing Ronald Reagan’s politics, made blatantly evident by one of the aliens remarking that it’s “morning in America” which is essentially the modern-day equal of “make America great again.”
But Reagan’s time has passed and now media illiterate antisemites seriously believe They Live is about how Jews control everything. Their evidence for this is a bunch of memes they puked all over 4Chan and Reddit. It got so ridiculous that John Carpenter had to set the record straight and tell the antisemites that they’re full of shit.
A good test to see how easily one can misread a film can be seen with Starship Troopers. The Paul Verhoven film is set in the future humanity is bound entirely by the military to find alien bugs on other planets. Every citizen is required to serve in the military if they want any of their civil rights, essentially fighting for their freedom. Teenagers fresh out of high school are immediately sent to the front lines of combat where they need to obliterate mindless bugs. Everyone is encouraged to join the fight for humanity and kids are instructed at a young age to stomp bugs, idolize the military, and play with bullets. The film comes loaded with absurd commercials for military victories and capital punishment. The film ends with our human protagonists capturing the lead bug and celebrating that they’ve instilled fear into another culture, reigning supreme among the universe in their giant spaceships with endless infantry and a vigorous army willing to die for their cause.
Now, does all of that make the movie sound like a fun future where you get to fight bugs and everyone earns their rights by actually serving in the military? If so, I’m afraid you’ve fallen for Nazi propaganda within this satire. This has been confirmed by Verhoven and countless others who have looked better and observed what the film was saying. It’s not just a simple dose of sci-fi violence with no political leanings. It’s a satirization of fascism, made evident by Verhoven’s parody opening of Triumph of the Will and the obvious Nazi-style uniforms of the military superiors. The only way the messaging could be any more obvious would be if Neil Patrick Harris’ fascist-dressed character gives a Nazi salute.
There are so many examples of these misreadings of media so let’s lightning-round a few right now:
- The Twilight Zone was always an anthology of blunt fables about racism and fascism among many political topics.
- Star Trek was always progressive for featuring a cast of various races and genders that always garnered pushback. The reason it backed away from being more progressive enough to feature gay characters in 80s-90s Trek shows is that producer Rick Berman kneecapped all the scripts, as various screenwriters and actors practically begged to have gay representation and had it denied.
- Star Wars took its inspiration from the Vietnam war with a clear target of imperialism given that it’s a band of REBELS versus an EMPIRE. This has been confirmed by George Lucas. The Empire uniforms are quite evocative of fascists as well, not to mention their political intentions lean heavily on fascism.
- Fight Club is a film that scrutinizes the way men feel insecure in the modern world and is not an advocation for embracing traditionalism, evident from the intent of both the original author and filmmaker.
- Taxi Driver is a cautionary tale about the dangers of man’s loneliness that festers into misogyny and violence and not just a mindless neo-noir of revenge.
- 1984 was about totalitarianism, mass surveillance and repressive regimentation styled after Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany. It is not about evil left-wing persecution or corporate censorship based on the fact that the censorship is by the state, the repression of words and sexuality is more of a fascist ideal, and the author himself is a democratic socialist.
- Despite what the bumper stickers may imply, The Punisher is not a symbol of the cops. The Punisher is an anti-hero who works outside the law and absolutely despises cops. This is evident in the comic books and co-creator Gerry Conway denounced such an association.
The culprits of missing the finer points of media like this are too numerous to count and I’d rather not give them any more oxygen than they deserve. And, look, it’s not impossible to misread this stuff if you’re not as informed on the social and cultural aspects observed in books, movies, and TV shows. Those who don’t know about Reagan’s America may see the aliens as anything they want. Those who can’t recognize what Tyler Durden represents in Fight Club will only recognize him as the cool guy all men should aspire to be.
The YouTuber Dan Olsen made a video on how Doug Walker completely misinterpreted the meaning of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. In that video, he stresses how oblivious Walker was to recognize the fascist critique with a musical sequence where he redesigns the obvious fascist leader to have a face that literally says “That Person You Hate.” The lyrics then admit that part of this sequence was inspired by the Thatcher administration of the UK but that it’s vague enough that it could be anybody you hate. Dan, sighing, argues that it wasn’t vague at all, cutting to footage from The Wall of the fascist leader calling out gays, Jews, and black people to be put up against the wall. No vagueness at all unless you just don’t understand the history and tenants of fascist political ideals.
Media has certainly gotten blunter in recent years but less so out of a political shift and more a case of wanting to be heard accurately. I doubt any writer or filmmaker wants their clear critique of far-right politics, fascism, and racism to be misinterpreted as a slander against Jews, gays, and [insert group you dislike here].
Media like The Boys did not go “woke.” They got louder and clearer with what they were always saying, making sure nobody viewed Homelander as a hero.