Why Homelander from The Boys is the perfect parody of Trumpian populism

Top 5 Diabolical Details In The Boys Season 3 Trailer

Amazon Prime’s fabulously gory superhero satire The Boys returns for its third season on Friday 3 June, facing the unenviable task of surpassing the ultra-violent excesses of its first two instalments, which brought us exploding invisible men, a laser-eyed baby and the brutal impaling of a 50-foot blue whale by speedboat in a shower of blood.

The show is based on a long-running series of comics from legendary Preacher creator Garth Ennis and takes place in an alternate reality in which a team of superheroes, known as The Seven, police society under the auspices of Vought International, a shadowy corporation that keeps a tight rein on their image with at least one eye on lucrative commercial partnerships.

While The Seven are adored by an unquestioning public, not everyone is convinced they are as squeaky-clean as they appear. Enter the maverick Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), who steers a ragtag crew of grudge-bearing vigilantes on a mission to expose the “supes” for who they really are.

The Seven are led by the omnipotent Homelander (Antony Starr), who initially appears as a straightforward riff on Superman or Captain America, a chiselled ubermensch with a square jaw and Colgate smile who wears the Stars-and-Stripes billowing from his shoulders beneath golden eagle epaulettes.

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But behind that clean-cut veneer, Homelander is really a deeply disturbed narcissist – not to mention a homicidal, xenophobic rapist – who sees no contradiction between his grinning, glad-handing persona (“You guys, you’re the real heroes”) and the blank amorality of his conduct.

Antony Starr as Homelander in The Boys and former president Donald TrumpAmazon/ Getty Images

As Dr Johnson warned us: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Utterly untroubled by conscience or the hundred-weight of his own hypocrisy, Homelander ended season two unhappily and was last seen stood on top of a skyscraper and seething “I can do whatever the f*** I want!” while masturbating petulantly in the moonlight.

If that deluded pronouncement from an American tyrant with lavish blonde hair and too much power reminds you of someone, it might well be former president Donald J Trump, who notoriously declared on the campaign trail in January 2016: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”

After shocking a complacent world by beating Hillary Clinton to the White House later that year, Trump proceeded to behave in office as though the presidency conferred on him the divine right of kings and frequently said as much, telling a Turning Point summit in July 2019, to take just one example: “The Constitution says I can do whatever I want as president but I don’t even talk about that.”

Trump’s disastrous tenure began with a bitterly opposed “Muslim travel ban” and an emboldened far-right rallying in Charlottesville, almost brought nuclear war with North Korea and Iran and ended with an unfinished border wall, unprecedented twin impeachments and a deadly attempted insurrection at the US Capitol inspired by a lie, the 45th president leaving Washington, DC, without so much as access to his own Twitter account to show for four years of division, mendacity and mass protest that left America’s credibility in tatters.

A Homelander presidency could hardly have been worse and the comparison between the two men does not end there.

In an infamous episode of season one of The Boys, the caped “hero” intervenes in an airline hijacking by Islamist terrorists, vapourising the attackers only to leave the passengers to plummet to their deaths once he realises that the pilot has already been executed and calculates that the hostages’ lives are not worth his time to save.

Rather than grieving their loss or confessing his cowardice, Homelander instead sees an opportunity, telling the news media the tragedy could have been averted if superheroes were accepted into the US military hierarchy and given prominence within its chain of command.

Trump has shown precisely the same callous disregard, insensitivity and naked self-interest on multiple occasions, most recently suggesting Vladimir Putin would never have invaded Ukraine if he still occupied the Oval Office.

Season two of The Boys meanwhile introduces the character of Stormfront (Aya Cash), an initially charming, livestream-literate addition to The Seven who threatens to steal Homelander’s thunder before gradually revealing herself to be an immortal superbeing spawned in Nazi Germany.

The romantic relationship between the pair neatly mirrors the manner in which many of the more unsavoury elements of the American alt-right ecosystem latched onto Trump’s coattails after he secured the Republican nomination in the hope of cementing proximity to power.

Discussing the changes made in adapting Stormfront for the MAGA era, showrunner Eric Kripke told Den of Geek in August 2020 that there is little ambiguity about the character in the comic’s pages.

THE BOYS Season 2 - STORMFRONT and HOMELANDER’s Fascist Fight (Eric Kripke & Cast Interview)

“[But] that’s not really how hatred works these days,” he explained. “A lot of people espouse some pretty hateful ideologies cloaked in pretty savvy, even sometimes attractive, social media packaging and they say they are coming off as ‘disruptors’ or ‘free-thinkers’ and are, a lot of the time, good-looking young men and women who attract a younger generation.

“When you dig deeper into that, you realise they are peddling the same old bulls*** that people have been peddling for a thousand years.”

On the amazing prescience of The Boys, Kripke said: “This show happens to be – and I’m not sure I knew it was going to be when I started working on it – the perfect metaphor for the exact moment we’re living in, where authoritarianism and celebrity combine, where fascism and entertainment combine.”

Such subtleties were entirely lost on some of Trump’s own fans, at least one of whom was confused enough about the show’s politics to attend the “Million MAGA March” in DC in November 2020 in protest at his election defeat dressed as Homelander.

Kripke responded to a picture of this buffoon by asking: “Um... are they actually watching the show?”

Starr was even more withering, labelling the spectacle (in a nod to the title of Trump’s ghost-written autobiography): “The art of ignorant dumbf***erry.”

Perhaps neither should have been so surprised that the MAGA mob were confused by something they had seen on TV.

These were, after all, the same people who believed the host of The Celebrity Apprentice might make a solid commander-in-chief.

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