‘World of Lies’ Is Honest About the US

This discussion and review contains spoilers for The boys season 3, episode 5, “Last time to watch this world of lies”.

The boys is not subtle in his political commentary.

Again, why should this be so? Part of the appeal of the superhero genre has always been the elevation of the mundane in opera, taking something familiar and turning it into a radical mythology involving gods and capes. Historically, the comics themselves have leaned into this. In April 1974, four months before Richard Nixon resigned, Captain America watched the President of the United States commit suicide in the Oval Office after becoming involved in a sinister plot.

These days, mainstream comics are much more reserved in this kind of political commentary. In February 2010, Marvel Comics issued an apology for making an indirect allusion to the Tea Party movement in the pages of Captain America, even rewriting the offending pages. This carries over to movies, where something like Captain America: The Winter Soldier seems to suggest that the surveillance state is only bad if run by literal Nazis (who cannot be called Nazis).

However The boys can be seen as a “transgressive and boundary-pushing” or even “dark in a youthful way” version of the superhero genre, the show is arguably more in tune with the spirit of this genre of superhero stories. hero than most modern story iterations of the genre. It’s a grand, sensationalized reflection of the world that produced it, an opera rendered in primary colors. He knows what it’s all about and he trusts the public not to divulge or conceal it.

Some of what separates the TV adaptation from The boys from its four-color source material, one gets the sense that the series has an abiding fondness for comic book superheroes. “The Last Time to Look on This World of Lies” features the character of “the Legend”, played by Paul Reiser. With his oversized glasses, slicked back hair, ubiquitous cigar, and constant flow of stories, the legend is a truer portrayal of Stan Lee than anything in a Marvel Studios film.

Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles) riffs heavily on Captain America, especially the version played by Chris Evans in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like Captain America, Soldier Boy is a man out of time. The show also borrows elements from The Winter Soldier, revealing that Soldier Boy was the subject of horrific experiments by the Soviet Union. “The Last Time to Look on This World of Lies” even films Soldier Boy’s trip down Lexington Avenue like Rogers’ trip to Times Square at the end of The First Avenger.

However, because Rogers jumps from the end of what is remembered as “the good war” into modern times, the comics and movies are largely able to avoid involving the icon in One of the most debatable aspects of American foreign and domestic policy that could have taken place in the space between these two points: the Vietnam War, the Iranian Revolution, the Iraq War. Sleeping through these traumatic events, Rogers can serve as an embodiment of American innocence.

In contrast, The boys makes it clear that such innocence is a comforting myth. The season premiere revealed that Soldier Boy strongly took place in the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, much like Captain America did in the comics of the time before it was quietly revived. Soldier Boy takes part in the American intervention in Nicaragua when he is captured by the Soviets in 1984. However, the show goes deeper than that.

In “Glorious Five Year Plan” and “The Last Time to Look on This World of Lies”, it is revealed that Soldier Boy can generate massive amounts of radiation. Butcher (Karl Urban) assumes it’s because his captors “more or less pushed Chernobyl up the ass.” It explodes in New York, like an individual atomic bomb. In doing so, The boys connects Soldier Boy to the original sin of post-war America: the use of atomic weapons on urban centers at the end of World War II.

The dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki remains a matter of contention. Some claim that the bombs served to shorten the war and perhaps save more lives in the long run, but these arguments are not convincing. “If we had lost the war, we would all have been prosecuted as war criminals,” confessed General Curtis LeMay. The horror of these bombings complicates the mythology of World War II as a heroic moment for the United States.

Soldier Boy becomes an embodiment of the complexities of American identity. In this way, he serves as a mirror to Homelander (Antony Starr). Indeed, the show underscores this point by having Soldier Boy stare at a giant Homelander billboard upon his arrival in New York, as if to emphasize the idea that Soldier Boy has been replaced or supplanted by a younger role model. and newer. After all, Homelander is the embodiment of a more modern kind of complicated American identity.

Homelander obviously brings up President Donald J. Trump. Maeve (Dominique McElligott) describes Homelander as “a paranoid malignant narcissist”, which follows with some analysis of Trump’s character. Homelander assembles the Vought board to sing his praises, recalling one of the first nightmarish viral videos of the Trump presidency. Deep’s (Chace Crawford) loyalty purge on “crime analysis” suggests similar efforts by Trump loyalists in the Pentagon and in intelligence.

The Boy Season 3 Episode 5 review The Last Time to Look on This World of Lies Amazon Prime honest look at American political rhetoric

Homelander appears on right-wing chat shows to express paranoid nonsense and to downplay any feelings that things are not right. “What threat does America face? asks Cameron Coleman (Matthew Edison) after the detonation of Soldier Boy. “No threat,” Homelander replies. He asserts that “America is safe”. He urges, “Get out of there. Go to your restaurants. Go to your cinemas. Live your lives. Have fun.” It’s eminently similar to Trump’s early response to the pandemic.

The boys creates continuity between Soldier Boy and Homelander, deliberately paralleling the two. Midway through the episode, Homelander confronts Maeve and confesses that he loved her, as much as he was capable of loving. She replies, “From the start, I hated you. But on top of that, I fucking felt sorry for you. At the end of “The Last Time to Watch This World of Lies”, Soldier Boy confronts his own former lover, the Crimson Cowl (Laurie Holden), who tells him, “I didn’t love you. I hated you. have all done.

This is a wise observation from the show. It is tempting to regard the current moment in American politics as exceptional, to suggest that the emergence of radical far-right politics is a “black swan” event with no real historical precedent. Instead, drawing a clear evolutionary line between Soldier Boy and Homelander, between the Reagan and Trump eras, The boys makes it clear that the current moment is just an acceleration of larger trends and not so much a disturbance as an escalation.

There are points where The boys is comical on the nose. Urban vigilante Blue Hawk (Nick Wechsler) complains when called out for over-policing black neighborhoods, saying “it’s actually racist to call someone a racist”. He later brags that “all lives matter” and “supreme lives matter” in response to “black lives matter,” before urging his opponents to “do the research” and blaming “antifa thugs and rotten apples” for a horrible mess he is causing.

The Boy Season 3 Episode 5 review The Last Time to Look on This World of Lies Amazon Prime honest look at American political rhetoric

This is the state of contemporary American politics, where it exists beyond the realm of parody. The darkest joke in all of this is that The boys does not exaggerate or increase his inspirations. Much of its dialogue and reference points are taken verbatim from news cycles of the past two years. Funnily enough, draping him in capes and tights makes the cartoonish logic less absurd.

To be fair, it’s a challenge that’s faced a lot of comedies and commentators over the past two years, because the very objects they would poke fun at exist “after the parody.” In its third season, The boys plays its political commentary relatively directly, which seems like the smartest choice possible. After all, much of modern political discourse feels like it could have been lifted straight from a superhero comic book, with nearly one in five Americans believing in secret cabals ruling America.

As such, that’s probably exactly what superhero stories should doing right now, filtering that sense of a fracturing and collapsing reality through the prism of the dominant genre in contemporary pop culture. Like the best superhero stories, The boys has a lot to say about the world around him. The fact that he says it in the rudest way imaginable just makes him more in tune with the moment.

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