Before the third season title card comes out, “The Boys” penetrates to the center of what the conflict between men and Übermensch really revolves around, via an allegory about size and strength starring a villain known as Termite. Most of the series’ supers parody famous heroes from the Marvel and DC universes, and Termite, as the name suggests, is the show’s perverted answer to Ant-Man, minus the goodness and charm.
What Termite lacks in those virtues, he makes up for by overcompensating, as it were. In this case, he makes himself small enough to sprint between the rails of coke for as long as he is, before jumping into his lover’s urethra and walking gently to the prostate as he strokes the walls.
Cocaine is a great drug, and Termite, who had a bump before getting smaller, can’t stop himself from sneezing – instantly returning to full size and exploding his ecstatic lover in two. Even by this show’s standards, this was an extreme splurge, doubling up as a red carpet leading to a season of parallels with real world threats overshadowed by troubling social and political shifts.
There’s no evidence that showrunner Eric Kripke intentionally pumped up the phallus references in the first few episodes for any reason other than to have fun with streaming’s liberal policy of full frontal nudity. (We reached out to Amazon in hopes of interviewing him for this story; unsurprisingly, we haven’t heard anything.)
Still, in a show that ranks among the highlights of the second season, with one of its heroes battling an expanding superschlong being thrown around by a character named Love Sausage, this season seems to be closing in on his NDE with renewed vigor as it country is facing an unforeseen crisis of masculinity. † † in the form of his top hero Homelander (Antony Starr) who gets loose.
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As the title suggests, “The Boys” doesn’t need to show its meaty bits to knock the table with its points about fascism and toxic misogyny. Homelander was poised to go full-on Nazi in the second season before his fascist lover was exposed and blown apart. Now he is lonely, horny and insecure which, combined with ultimate strength and thin skin, is a deadly cocktail. Whether he’s in full costume or completely naked, he’s a brash you-know-who.
“The Boys” doesn’t need to show off its meaty bits to knock the table with its points about fascism and toxic misogyny.
Only one thing stands between his misdirected anger and a population unable to defend themselves against his power, and that is the admiration of the public. Worship is Homelander’s personal male enhancement drug, it turns out. By telling his assistant Ashley (Colby Minnie) that his admiration among white men in the rust belt has increased by 44%, he gets a huge boner she can’t ignore, especially since he’s naked when she breaks the news.
When his boner makes her so nervous to continue delivering her status report, he yells at her, “That has nothing to do with you. Just keep going!”
The bleak undercurrent here is that Ashley is both a masochist and a sadist, taking her boss’s wrongs and passing them on to ensure that nothing ever gets better. Her total loyalty to Homelander is rewarded when he asks her, with a look that actually threatens to kill her, or “her idiot brain is being tricked by stupidity”, only to repeat the same line to a subordinate later. The arrogant message here is that you either stab or get stabbed; lose control of the joystick and, as Termite’s unlucky lover discovered, the game is over.
Within “The Boys”, however, penis representations are always used transgressively – to laugh, scare, or deter.
Scenes like the hand-to-dildo fights in the fourth episode tick all three boxes, which begins with Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) killing a Russian oligarch by penetrating his skull with a device called the Black Noir Silent Screamer.
You can’t fully appreciate the irony of that joke without seeing it. But for that you also need a strong stomach.
Kimiko beating to death a room full of armed Russian mobsters with various vibrators and sex toys is hilarious – and great, let’s face it – but it’s also a low-key tragedy. She hates her enhanced strength and invulnerability and despises being considered a weapon rather than a person. “I’m not your f**king gun,” she texts Butcher.
“That’s exactly what you are,” he fires back, reminding her and everyone else on his crew that they have the biggest bat of the bunch.
Karl Urban as Billy Butcher in ‘The Boys’. (Courtesy of Prime Video/Amazon Studios)
“The Boys” is just one of many shows that have gone phallocentric in recent years, and as far as number of poles go, plenty of other series are a few lengths ahead — “Westworld” and “Minx,” just to name two. under HBO’s warehouse of options. And for all its risqué scenes of superhero sexual indulgences, “The Boys” would have to make a concerted effort to catch up with “Euphoria,” which struck viewers in the eye with a parade of 30 sausages in the second episode. Premium cable has long reigned as the main stage for most scripted drama poker tournaments, purely as a matter of show.
But recently, man’s true best friend has become a protagonist in some stories. There will always be shows that consider watching mushy as a joke, as was the case with Mike Myers’ “The Pentaverate” and an opening episode sketch of Amazon’s revival of “The Kids in the Hall”. But in “Pam & Tommy” Tommy Lee Jr. by Sebastian Stan – a prosthesis, to be clear – breaks new ground by engaging its owner in a serious conversation about love and fidelity.
Of course, you can easily think of this scene and everything else in “The Boys” as a simple joke of a strange color – far away. The implication of full frontal male nudity is thus malleable on television, even if only implied, as is the case with Homelander’s fully raised mast. It can symbolize an overall apparent flaw or add gentle levity to a grim situation.
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However, in some extensions it is a compass whose true north is authoritarianism. Homelander shares personality traits with an offstage public persona that haunts our own lives. That’s certainly no coincidence, which makes it a scary thought to see him physically and emotionally naked, and full of the realization that he can get away with anything and that people will love him anyway.
The implication of full frontal male nudity is malleable on television.
This week of all weeks sharpens the dangerous absurdity of that subplot, with American TV viewers divided between witnessing the House Congressional Committee hearings on the uprising that took place on January 6, 2021, and those choosing to tell the lies. beliefs that claim the extensively researched findings are propaganda.
“The Boys” presents a world where propaganda is as inescapable as rule by violence and physical might – and between the ubiquitous Vought, the government, and the Earth’s strongest and least controllable, it’s a never-ending measuring match.
The polite way to sum up our situation is that patriarchy is pushing injustices down our throats. “The Boys” way of describing it is that cocks are everywhere and ready to force submission to anyone who won’t bow to them. The only defense is to get harder and hit back.
New episodes of “The Boys” debut Fridays on Prime Video.
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