In the oversaturated Superhero content market, it is rare for heroes to go against the epitomized image of squeaky-clean role models with godlike powers who save us from menacing villains just in the nick of time. Enter “The Boys.” Amazon’s hit show takes this notion and turns it on its head. In the series, Vought International presents to the world, “The Seven.” These corporate Supes (short for superheroes), polished tip to toe are not dissimilar from carefully designed happy meals that conformists consume on a nice platter. Unlike Marvel Studio’s “The Avengers,” these Supes are radically damaged characters created in secret labs, pumped with illicit Vought chemicals to achieve unbelievable abilities. The audience appreciates the struggles facing these characters and we get to see inner demons come to life within each of their psyches; a funky-fresh take on the modern superhero genre.
True fans of “The Boys” are quick to point out the show’s comic book origin and Amazon’s authentic live action adaptation. The show fearlessly presents us with explicit scenes of a man getting violently choked by an evil stretchable penis, a woman accidently squeezing and exploding a man’s head while receiving oral sex, and gill fingering. Oddly enough, public masturbation is where Amazon draws the line. Rebecca Shepherd in a recent article sheds light on “one of the most disturbing moments” where the main antagonist, Homelander, is feverishly pleasuring himself atop a building, his bare buttocks gleaming in the moonlight. Shepherd mentions how co-creator Erik Kripke couldn’t quite understand how Amazon was OK with most of the show but said “F**K NO, you have to cut” the Homelander scene and that “it wasn’t necessary in season 1.”
This is not a show you casually pop on and watch with your parents, who just finished a 1978 “Incredible Hulk” marathon they proudly recorded on Betamax. Most sane people would opt for a more family friendly experience on Disney+. In the season 2 finale of “The Boys,” Amazon asked Kripke to bring “more punch” to the last episode. Kripke quickly got back to them with just the right idea; he reused the infamous Homelander masturbation scene they had originally asked him to cut from season 1. In a separate interview, Jessica Andrews mentions how Kripke thanked Amazon for its lack of censorship. “We put it all into the show,” Kripke said. “If there’s something totally crazy and it works for the characters, we put it in. Amazon’s been amazing about never really censoring that, so there kinda is no line.”
If our modern culture were to jump back to 1956 to watch Elvis Presley’s debut performance on The Ed Sullivan show, viewers would be unable to recognize acts of lewd behavior. However, at that time, fearing exposure to young impressionable teenagers, network executives responded quickly to censor Elvis’ bodacious gyrating hips, switching to close-up shots of his face whenever he was dancing. This live debut performance could be considered one of the earliest forms of censorship from a national television network. Teenagers in 2020 would have a hard time understanding what all the fuss was about. The King’s chaotic twists and turns look chaste compared to the twerking in most mainstream MTV videos. And remember when Madonna kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera live onstage at the 2003 VMAs? At the time it was the most infamous kiss witnessed around the world. Then there was “Nipplegate,” Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction that aired on live TV during the 2004 Superbowl halftime show. According to TiVo, “Nipplegate” was one of the most paused televised moments ever recorded in history. Clearly, American audiences are pushing the threshold of what they consider lewd content.
The current trend of streaming services is to cut their umbilical-like ties to the network overlords who essentially gave birth to them. It’s like teenagers going through that classic “parents just don’t understand” phase and refusing to comply with strict standards and practices because the cool kids at Amazon get to produce audacious unrated commercial free content. This direction allows “The Boys’” showrunner Kripke full artistic license to display his wickedly warped creativity without impediment. It is like that line from “Wayne’s World 2” when Jim Morrison tells Wayne Campbell “If you build it, they will come.”