The Boys has always been about Trump and Trumpism, intended or not

The Boys creator Eric Kripke didn't know his superhero satire would speak so well to our modern political moment when he began, but once he realized what he had, he embraced it.
The Boys season 4, Prime Video
The Boys season 4, Prime Video /

The first two seasons of The Boys aired in the final two years of the first Trump presidency, and it was hard not to look at some of the events in the news and see them reflected on the series. In 2017, white supremacists openly marched in a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting slogans and waving flags that made it feel like Nazism was alive and well in the United States of America. Then The Boys season 2 introduced a Nazi superhero named Stormfront (itself the name of a neo-Nazi internet forum), who argued that people were sympathetic to her brand of fascist bigotry. Homelander, the breakout character of the show, was often compared to Donald Trump: a budding authoritarian who thought his power exempted him from needing to abide by moral behavior.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, showrunner Eric Kripke said that while the show didn't begin as a satire of our modern political moment, once he realized the shoe fit, he kept running. "When Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg] and I took it out to pitch, it was 2016," Kripke said. "We just wanted to do a very realistic version of a superhero show, one where superheroes are celebrities behaving badly. Trump was the, 'He’s not really getting the nomination, is he?' guy. When he got elected, we had a metaphor that said more about the current world. Suddenly, we were telling a story about the intersection of celebrity and authoritarianism and how social media and entertainment are used to sell fascism. We’re right in the eye of the storm. And once we realized that, I just felt an obligation to run in that direction as far as we could."

"It’s happened now almost every season, and we write them sometimes close to two years before they air and again we’ll find that the news is accurately reflecting whatever we’re talking about. It’s not a spoiler to say that first episode [of season four], Homelander [played by Antony Starr] is on trial. A big concern is “Can you convict someone that powerful of a crime?” And what does that mean for the various supporters or the people protesting him? Did I know it was going to come out during Trump’s trial? Of course not. But we write what we’re either scared of or pissed off about. Someone asked me last year, about season three, “How are you so prescient with cops and over-policing in Black neighborhoods?” Well, it’s been a problem for over 100 years. It was a problem five years ago, and, unfortunately, it’s going to be a problem five years from now. It’s always the same shit."

The heroes of The Boys are the Boys, a group dedicated to taking down tyrannical superheroes like Homelander. If we interpret Homelander as a stand-in for Trump, it's very easy to read the show as anti-Trump and anti-Trumpism. Some have called the show "woke," a catch-all term used to describe media not in step with conservative politics. But clearly that hasn't put off a ton of people, since The Boys continues to be one of the biggest shows on Amazon Prime Video.

"I clearly have a perspective, and I’m not shy about putting that perspective in the show," Kripke said. "Anyone who wants to call the show 'woke' or whatever, that’s OK. Go watch something else. But I’m certainly not going to pull any punches or apologize for what we’re doing. Some people who watch it think Homelander is the hero. What do you say to that? The show’s many things. Subtle isn’t one of them. So if that’s the message you’re getting from it, I just throw up my hands."

Like a lot of genre shows, The Boys camoflages its political leanings with metaphor, in this case superheroes. If you're a conservative, you can still enjoy The Boys so long as you don't think too hard about what it's trying to say, or if you flip the message in your head, which may be how you could get people who think Homelander is the hero, like Kripke said. At the end of the day, The Boys is a TV show and not a political statement, something Kripke is well aware of:

"I have no illusions about my job. I’m somewhere between a carnie and a court jester. I am not particularly up my own ass, so I don’t know if it’ll ever change minds. If it does, that’d be fantastic. Look, I am a big proponent of genre — good genre, which doesn’t get enough respect. Through the metaphor of superheroes or space or whatever, you can say subversive things that you’d never get away with in most straight dramas."

The first three episodes of The Boys season 4 are now available to watch, and the real-world serendipity continues. We're in an election year where Donald Trump is once again running for president; if he's elected, it sounds like he has plans to remake the federal bureaucracy so as to consolidate unprecedented power within his own person, according to a proposal from the conservative Heritage Foundation. Meanwhile, on The Boys, the amoral superhero Victoria Neuman is vice president and aims higher, and Homelander is plotting on the sidelines to secure himself absolute dominance over the world.

"I mean, look, the story was heading there from the beginning or at least from the minute Victoria Newman (Claudia Doumit) was introduced, which was early in Season 2," Kripke told Deadline of the new political storyline. "We were always heading here, and so part of it is this is just where the overall story was going."

"That it happened to fall during an election year, I think that makes it feel …for a show that has always tried to be really current and capturing the zeitgeist. I think it’s another lineup of reality in the show. You know, I hope people don’t think that it’s too much or too real. I mean, we still have people exploding and a lot of lasers coming out of the eyes, and penises being used in new and exciting ways also."

Kripke seems to embrace or downplay the show's real-world satirical elements depending on the interview, but I definitely think part of what makes The Boys feel so entertaining is how tapped in it feels to today's political reality. I'm anxious about what's going to happen within the halls of power over the next few years, and I expect to see that reflected on this ambitiously gross show about superheroes.

"I certainly feel, and I know a lot of the writers do to that, the immediate future looks scary and is creating anxiety, at the very least," Kripke said. "So, you know, we’re just kind of expressing how we feel. I’m not trying to change minds. I’m just trying to communicate my own fear and anxiety about this upcoming year."

"Yeah, unfortunately, the real world has evolved to reflect more of the show. I think things have gotten so crazy and off the rails, that things happen in reality now all the time that that in the writers room if someone had pitched that we’d have said that was too broad, or insane."

Who knows how this will all manifest in the show's fifth and final season, which will probably come along in 2026? Until then, new episodes of The Boys season 4 drop Thursdays on Amazon Prime Video.

dark. Next. The Boys Season 4 premiere recap: Old dogs, new tricks. The Boys Season 4 premiere recap: Old dogs, new tricks

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