The Boys Is Becoming What It Despises

By Jacob VanGundy | Published

the boys season 3

With The Boys: Mexico confirmed, the Amazon series has continued its inevitable transformation into the corporate superhero mega-franchise it was designed to satirize. Joining Gen V and Diabolical, The Boys will soon have three spinoffs alongside the ongoing original series. In other words, it has become the ultimate symbol of modern superhero media, a universe.

A Superhero Satire

jensen ackles soldier boy the boys

The Boys is a satire of superhero stories centering on a group of corrupt superheroes and an anti-superhero vigilante group trying to expose that corruption. Its characters are often direct parodies of various Marvel and DC characters with its core group of heroes being a Justice League stand-in.

Its spinoffs are Gen V, a college-age take on the show, Diabolical an animated anthology series set in the universe, and the upcoming The Boys: Mexico which doesn’t have many available details yet. 

It’s Becoming Just Like Marvel And DC

the boys

A big part of the reason The Boys took off when it aired in 2019 is that it was poking fun at a genre people were getting tired of. It was a superhero show for the people complaining about having superhero fatigue on social media, with jabs at how overexposed superheroes had become. But at this point, the franchise is almost indistinguishable from other mainstream superhero franchises.

Going More Commercial

In addition to The Boys and its three spinoffs, the series has rapidly expanded into other mediums with surprisingly little self-awareness. Vought News Network is an in-universe news program that Amazon has turned into a YouTube series as viral marketing for the ever-expanding universe.

The clearest evidence that the franchise has become a mainstream franchise is characters from the show appearing in games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III and Mortal Kombat 1.

It’s Losing Its Edge

All of this is perfectly normal for a hit show but, unlike other shows, The Boys became a hit by mocking this type of commercialism. In season 2, the show used an in-universe Avengers parody to mock the genre’s need for constant sequels, its corporate tie-ins, and overbearing marketing.

The series pumping out so many spinoffs, promotions, and tie-ins, doesn’t just feel like a cheap cash grab, it feels hypocritical and in direct conflict with the show’s themes. 

Between its spinoffs and changes in the genre at large, The Boys feels increasingly outdated. It’s now rapidly expanding at a time when the MCU is self-consciously limiting its scope to focus on quality.

Even its reputation as the edgy superhero universe has been undercut by Marvel and DC embracing R-rated movies like The Suicide Squad and the upcoming Deadpool and Wolverine.

Can The Boys Turn It Around?

Bogged down with its ever-growing list of spinoffs and supplemental content, The Boys has become a victim of its own success. In becoming a major hit for Amazon, the show has veered out of satirizing mainstream superhero media into being mainstream superhero media.

As a critique of Marvel and DC, it has been defanged by Amazon’s transparent attempt to turn it into their version of a flagship superhero franchise. 

The real question for The Boys and its spinoffs is if it can adapt to becoming the type of corporate superhero franchise it used to satirize.

It risks becoming an embarrassingly unaware self-parody if it can’t find a way to address the dissonance between its fictional universe’s themes and its real-world status. After all, how many superhero shows can an audience tired of superheroes handle?