‘The Boys’: The Most Stressful Comic-to-TV Adaptation Involved Starlight
While Marvel movies and similar tales from other studios paint their superpowered crimefighters as the heroes that the world needs, Amazon’s The Boys posits a world where things are a bit more complicated.
Unlike the DC and Marvel movies we typically get on the big screen, many of The Boys’ heroes are the villains. At no point was this clearer than in season one, when one of the perceived heroes, The Deep, sexually assaults the well-meaning recruit Starlight. According to showrunner Eric Kripke, they did everything they could to make sure they framed this right.
Not your Marvel superheroes
In a rundown of the series, Elliott Duque-Estrada of CBR noted the direct correlation between The Boys, itself based on a comic series, and the Marvel and DC worlds that it satirizes. The series posits a world where superheroes are not as good as they are portrayed in media.
The series’ unofficial Avengers, the Seven, are less crimefighters and more figureheads sent to do the government’s dirty work. At the same time, everything’s presented through rose-tinted goggles by the media.
Not everyone is on board with the Seven, however. To many, the group is a public gang of mercenaries willing to hurt the people they’re sworn to protect in the name of fame, fortune, and glory.
With corporate overlords and a superhero landscape that’s presented much like real-world military and police propaganda, The Boys doesn’t want us to cheer on the superheroes. They want us to cheer for their demise.
Early on, we get a glimpse when Jack Quaid’s Hughie watches in horror as his girlfriend is ripped into a pile of viscera by a drugged-up speedster named A-Train. This sets off a series of gritty, villainous portrayals that only get darker as time passes.
The Seven’s deadly sins
The Boys doesn’t want to be the superhero series that borders on exploitation. They want all the horrors and atrocities viewed on-screen to be regarded with the same disgust as the characters on screen. At the beginning of the series, Erin Moriarty’s Starlight is a young, naive, and deeply religious young woman who buys into the notion that the Seven are a force for good.
However, after making it through a rigorous tryout, Starlight is coaxed into performing sexual acts on The Deep. Played by Chace Crawford, this water-based superhuman manipulates her into giving him what he wants. As ScreenRant notes, it’s a graphic scene that shows the hypocrisy of a group that often promotes Patriotic, religious messages of abstinence and kindness to others. It helps to set the tone that separates the series from a saturated market.
According to Kripke, this moment, which took place at the end of the first episode, was the scene they knew they had to hit to let the series work.
Getting it right
Acknowledging Hollywood’s troubling history of portraying sexual assault through a romantic, almost pornographic lens, Kripke wanted to make sure that the scene played out not for enjoyment, shock value, or downright exploitation but for absolute terror. After all, it’s a show that portrays real-world problems by tapping into popular media.
Furthermore, he needed the actors to feel comfortable. As such, Kripke put extra effort into the scene, saying that it was the hardest seen to get from page to screen.
“I’ve never worked so hard or stressed so much about a scene in my life before or since,” Kripke said at the London Screenwriter’s Film Festival. “Because if I got that wrong, it’s not just that it would fail as a scene. It would be hurtful. And I felt that pressure and responsibility all throughout.”
It must have worked. The Boys remains one of Amazon’s greatest hits after two seasons, with its riveting portrayal of real-life terror through the lens of the most popular genre in the world. As such, they do not want to make the same mistakes Zack Snyder did with Watchmen. The scene is as memorable as it is horrifying, but it never seems as though it’s meant to be anything other than just that.