‘The Boys’: American Exceptionalism

The superhero is a distinctly American concept. While the idea of a masked avenger has existed long before the good ol’ US of A was even a twinkle in George Washington’s eye (such as Robin Hood and Don Quixote), the modern superhero wasn’t born until the 1930’s in New York City. Sure, there are characters that are inarguably superheroes in Japanese manga and anime, but that doesn’t change the fact that the superhero is an American creation, which is why it shouldn’t be surprising that the superhero also exemplifies the most prevalent aspect of our culture: American exceptionalism.

There are plenty of examples of the former. From the obvious like Captain America (it’s right there in the name), to the conspicuous like Green Lantern (who was a combat pilot for the Air Force), to the in-between like Superman (the corn-fed farm boy from the Midwest who dresses in red and blue), almost every hero that was created during the Golden Age of Comic Books pushed, in some facet or another, a pro-military, pro-nationalism message.

Don’t believe me? I can go even further. Iron Man and his Stark Industries is a perfect representation of the military industrial complex, the Hulk is a personification of the increasing nuclear threat America perceived from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, even Wonder Woman was originally depicted as fighting Axis military forces during World War II. Whichever way you cut it, superheroes, at least during their infancy, were made to promote the United States.

Image via CBR

Then you have Homelander from The Boys, who, with his blonde hair, blue eyes and pearly-white smile, is the perfect American man. He isn’t just a parody of American nationalism, but the embodiment of an ecocentric nation compensating for its fright of the outside world with an overly-excessive military presence.

Homelander is everything wrong with the United States. From seeing him deliberately support terrorists with Compound V (which has striking parallels to the multiple times the U.S military has provided weapons to “enemy groups” in order to influence regime changes), to seeing him show little to no regard of the innocent lives he takes when fighting on foreign soil (over 200,000 civilians were killed since the 2003 invasion of Iraq), Homelander is a side of America that very few Americans see, and an almost beautiful criticism of the subtle fascism that underpins comic book culture.

featured image via tvweb