The Boys season 2 finale spoilers follow.
During a recent interview with Digital Spy, Erin Moriarty said characters like Starlight "do things that lie in the grey area", making them perhaps "the most human superheroes that have ever been depicted in TV shows or in movies".
The Boys star has a point. For better or worse, each member of The Seven is far more human than they'd ever like to admit, hiding behind a facade of Olympian, god-like might.
In the case of so-called "heroes" such as Stormfront or Homelander, it's easy to see why they'd want to keep their racist, homicidal tendencies private. But sadly, Queen Maeve has also been pressured to keep her private life secret, simply because she identifies as bisexual.
Part of this need for secrecy originally stemmed from Maeve's fear of Homelander, the misogynistic Man of Steel. The pair used to date, so Maeve feared how Homelander might react to this news, perhaps punishing her by hurting Elena, Maeve's ex-girlfriend.
Near the start of season two, these fears became reality. Homelander discovered that Queen Maeve was queer, but instead of hurting Elena physically, he decided to out his colleague, hoping to hurt the pair emotionally and psychologically instead.
Rather than shun Queen Maeve and make themselves look bad, Vought International spin this news around by rebranding themselves in the most cynical way possible. The campaign is spearheaded by a new Queen Maeve movie which is promoted using the hashtag "Brave Maeve".
That's not all though. In a bid to celebrate Maeve's queer identity without upsetting the status quo, the film pairs our hero up with another female crusader. In one particular cringeworthy scene that's shot in episode five, the couple exchange some painfully trite dialogue before moving in for a kiss.
Of course, the kiss doesn't end up happening because the director yells "cut!" before their lips touch. Sound familiar? Showrunner Eric Kripke deliberately wanted to parody the "performative woke-ness" real-life companies often engage in here.
Speaking to Collider, Kripke went on to say: "They’re not really concerned with people or really pushing for any substantial change... for [Vought] to take this really fraught journey that this character is on and try to boil it down to an advertising campaign feels very on-brand for a lot of corporations, not just Vought."
The commodification of queerness as something to market and sell isn't just unique to Kripke's fictional world either. Remember when Marks and Spencer sold a "LGBT" sandwich filled with lettuce, guacamole, bacon, and tomato? While it's unclear if the company really hoped a sandwich would improve the world or just their image, it's hard not to doubt their intent without visible and meaningful action to back it up.
That's particularly true when it comes to The Boys' real-life counterparts, Marvel and DC. As LGBTQ+ representation continues to improve on the whole, the two giants of superhero storytelling have come under a great deal of pressure to catch up and start celebrating heroes who aren't white, straight, cisgender men – ie one of the four Chrises.
Unfortunately, their attempts at diversifying have been tentative and cowardly at best, often verging on the brink of insulting. The Eternals supposedly positive take on queer representation will have to do a lot of heavy lifting to make up for Marvel's past track record on screen. Who can forget that token gay moment at the start of Avengers: Endgame or when Valkyrie's bisexuality was cut out of Thor: Ragnarok? And the less said about Wonder Woman's bisexual erasure, the better.
The Boys' film-within-a-film, titled Dawn of The Seven, is framed primarily as a Justice League parody (here's the evidence), but by cutting Maeve's same-sex kiss before it even happened, the show simultaneously takes aim at Marvel and DC, both of whom have regularly come under fire for similar occurrences.
While that moment would have been telling enough, the point is then hammered home by Vought employees who throw around buzzwords like "representation" and "diversity" to conceal the company's bigotry and indifference.
"We’re recommending a multi-pronged image makeover," they say. "First, guest spots on Queer Eye, then an exclusive 'It Gets Better' PSA." When they go on to mistakenly describe Maeve and Elena as "two proud lesbians", Ashley, the PR mogul, tells them "lesbian is an easier sell" than bisexual.
In fact, she argues it would be better if Elena wore more masculine clothing in order to fill a more traditional gender role: "Research has shown that two feminine women in a relationship sends a problematic message. Americans are more accepting of gays when they’re in a clear-cut gender role relationship, like Ellen [DeGeneres] and Portia [de Rossi]."
This would be hilarious if it didn't feel far too real, accurately reflecting the consumer-focused narrative companies often use to undermine genuine moments of empowerment. That's not to mention the wider problem surrounding bisexual erasure in general, both outside and within the LGBTQ+ community.
As Kripke pointed out to Collider, "They want [Maeve] to fit a role. Just trying to fit them into these really artificial roles that will ultimately maximize the amount of money they can make off it rather than actually trying to provide any meaningful support."
By fighting to control Maeve's queer identity and how it's presented to the world, Vought proves how little the company actually cares about marginalised people. They just exist as a prop to help make the corporation look more progressive. By the end of season two, no actual support is given to help Maeve navigate her new reality as an out-and-proud hero.
Thankfully, The Boys itself does quite the opposite, freeing Maeve in ways that actively push back against Vought's hypocrisy and the patriarchy as a whole. This all comes to a head in the season two finale right after Stormfront is burnt to a crisp (a rather fitting stage for Maeve's triumph given Stormfront's own bigoted values).
Just as Homelander is about to snatch his son away, Maeve arrives, threatening to expose his evil to the world. Using video proof of the deaths he caused in season one, Maeve convinces Homelander to back down and choose his reputation over his son. In doing so, Maeve also secures her own safety too, ensuring that Homelander will leave her and Elena alone for good.
While Homelander isn't a full-blown Nazi in the traditional sense of the word, his pearly-white smile and slick blonde hair certainly evoke Aryan ideals, reinforcing a toxic brand of masculinity that shuns queerness and actively recoils against female strength. That's why it's so empowering to see Maeve emasculate Homelander and turn his rage against him, shattering what's left of his fragile self-worth while securing a happy queer ending for her and Elena.
Maeve's win doesn't just represent a victory over Homelander. It also pushes back against the patriarchy as a whole, proving that the fight against evil can't just be won by white, heterosexual, cisgender men.
As Erin rightly pointed out to us, characters like Maeve and Starlight are perhaps "the most human superheroes that have ever been depicted" on screen. And by human, she means all of us. So pay attention, Marvel and DC. Because "human" includes queer, female, non-binary people of colour who may or may not live with disabilities too.
The Boys season two is now available to watch in full on Amazon Prime Video.
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