From an outsider’s perspective, Annie January (Erin Moriarty), better known as Starlight, has accomplished everything she set out to do. Not only is she a member of the world’s most powerful superhero team, The Seven, she has also been named co-captain by Stan Edgar (Giancarlo Esposito), the CEO of the company that owns the team, Vought International.
In season three of The Boys, Stan assures her that this should put her on an equal footing with Homelander (Antony Starr), the invincible leader of the seven who happens to be a psychopath. The only force holding Homelander in check is fan adoration: as long as he feels loved, he has no reason to subjugate humanity.
That should not be a problem. Vought has planted The Seven in every corner of American life. The faces of his heroes are everywhere on food packaging, toys, clothes. They appear in TV shows and films and sing hit pop anthems.
Through them, Vought influences government policy and strives for control of the military. What does Annie have to do with this? That’s the question she’s been asking herself ever since she joined the team, hoping to use her position to be a true hero and help out the average person. But from the start she was injured, baited and gassed.
Annie never really did justice after telling the world that a teammate sexually assaulted her. Her attacker The Deep (Chace Crawford) was fired. Maybe she could have stopped then. Instead, Vought turned her trauma into a marketing opportunity. It covered The Deep’s supposed redemption arc in the same way. Now that he’s been rejoined by Homelander, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the power Annie once held was compromised some time ago.
Currently, Annie’s life depends on her ability to convincingly cosplay Starlight, rather than using her power to protect and serve her. Look at the sell-off trap, the selfishness that drives capitalism. The meaning of the term has changed over the years, moving in some ways from an ethical crime to a professional goal.
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By the time the first part of the comic book on which the show was based hit the stands in 2006, the mainstream concept of selling out was already fading. It’s not difficult to understand why. Artists have to buy groceries and pay rent, which lends little romantic appeal to the image of the starving artist. Of course, the term has a different meaning among fringe groups, where the accusation of betrayal of their own culture and their own people carries the sting.
Jessie T Usher in “The Boys” (Courtesy of Prime Video/Amazon Studios)
Which brings us to A-Train (Jesse T. Usher), rumored to be the fastest man alive and the only black member of the team. The attention-hungry hero has been paused, but he’s been promised a rebrand as long as he shuts up and does what the company tells him. It’s a challenge in a society where white superheroes hunt blacks at random and are hailed as heroes on newscasts.
Sometime in the middle of the Great Recession, the sell-off was announced.
A-Train could do something about it, his brother insists. But the runabout shrugs his shoulders. “I’m Michael Jordan. I’m not Malcolm X,” he says. Soon after, the marketing geniuses find a new opportunity to increase its rating among the African American demographic.
Sometime in the middle of the Great Recession, the sell-off was announced. It leads to commercial success, which brings with it more money and a better chance of financial survival.
In the third season of Prime Video’s adaptation of “The Boys,” Starlight pays far more than just selling out. Everyone does it. It cannot be helped. And when activists, professors, and other intellectuals analyze how late capitalism hastened democracy’s slide into fascism, these stories either directly or metaphorically illustrate what they are talking about.
Among the unpowered humans chasing the runaway members of the Seven, Annie’s friend Hughie (played by Jack Quaid) has traded his vigilante status to work for the Federal Bureau of Superhuman Affairs and its director, Victoria Newman (Claudia Doumit) .
Jack Quaid in The Boys (Courtesy of Prime Video/Amazon Studios)
His former leader Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) and Billy’s compatriots Frenchie (Tomer Capon) and Kimiko (Karen Fukuhara) hire him to do the FBI’s dirty work. Her remaining member, Marvin Milk (Laz Alonso), left the team to re-establish his relationship with his now ex-wife and daughter.
And in every life, the sell-off has paid off. Hughie has a shiny apartment with a view that is many steps away from a hideout in a rat hole. Butcher and Co. are headquartered in New York’s Flatiron Building, an architectural icon. Her work through the Bureau of Superhuman Affairs has resulted in a 60% reduction in collateral damage.
Such evidence of progress and progress tends to be temporary at best and mainly illusory. And on the rare occasion that someone emerges victorious, many others must lose. For example, the price of The Deep rejoining The Seven is having to eat a friend to prove his loyalty. A-Train is cast to match the illusion that Vought cares about black lives without doing anything to shake the boat.
Hughie’s relative gullibility is a constant source of entertainment for Butcher, and when the junior member of the vigilante team discovers his boss is just like the runaway superheroes they’re supposed to be hunting, Butcher punches him with punch lines.
This means that Victoria and the Bureau are also weapons of Vought.
Series creator and showrunner Eric Kripke doesn’t prioritize the sellout theme in these new episodes as he and the writers do with season two, which deals with the rising tide of fascism prompted by the introduction of Stormfront (Aya Cash) is fed. a Nazi who hid her white supremacy behind a cloak of girl-boss feminism.
The Boys is still a superhero show turned on its head, which means their devotion to savage combat ending in cartoonish gore is still prominent. So does Butcher’s obsession with satisfying his vendetta against Homelander, which has led him on a quest to find yesterday’s Superman Soldier Boy (Jensen Ackles), who most suspect is long dead.
Of course, Butcher also sells out and jeopardizes his morale to secretly drink a passing Compound V to gain an invulnerability boost and becomes what he hates.
One wonders if Darick Robertson and Garth Ennis, the original comic book creators of The Boys, envisioned society coming so close to realizing the twisted hero worship parody they invented. Nor would they likely have predicted that a company sharing Vought’s goal of global saturation would turn their story into a television show.
You don’t even have to see this show to participate in the big sale.
That’s always been the cynical kicker in this show’s light-hearted wit. It’s a great show, one that counts a former President among its fans and does its part to offer us comfort and comfort through an hour of power-fantasy escapism. It also points to how easily we trade our agency and rights for entertainment.
You don’t even have to see this show to participate in the big sale. All you have to do is be a fan of a brand or a celebrity instead of appreciating the way one person who is denied justice can affect us all.
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Annie, A-Train and Hughie have come this far because they were blind, whether by choice or not. Butcher trades his principles and body for short-term gain and damn it what it’s costing him over time.
“The Boys” still presents a fantasy version of America where people can fly, tear metal apart with their bare hands, and explode people’s heads with psychic powers – and it does that very well. But if we’re feeling more squeamish this season, it may be for reasons other than exploding victims, broken bones, and gross scenarios. (A little bit with this world’s Ant-Man doppelganger jumping in another man’s urethra is…inspired.)
Perhaps it’s because the show has gotten really good at reminding us that our nation’s reality isn’t that far removed from what it portrays: A world driven by the average person’s willingness to embrace their values in exchange for tasty snacks and a good time.
The first three episodes of The Boys are currently streaming on Prime Video. New episode debuts Friday.
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