Amazon's The Boys is gaining noteriety for its insightful and biting satire of fame and celebrity by way of the superhero genre - but also for offering viewers a violent, perverted, and all-around depraved twist on the superhero franchises they know and love. It's fair to say that the 2000s Boys comic series Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson provided plenty of shocking material for the TV show to adapt, but some radical changes to the socio-political climate forced the showrunners to rethink their approach to one especially disturbing scene from the comics.
Warning - MILD SPOILERS for The Boys comic issue #3 and TV series pilot follow!
In the third issue of The Boys comic, superhero team The Seven welcome new member Starlight in a horrific way: through a sexual assault involving multiple assailants. It starts with superman hero Homelander dropping his pants without warning and demanding oral sex, and only gets worse when teammates Black Noir and A-Train show up demanding the same. Annie/Starlight goes through with it, but the coercion leaves her feeling shamed and traumatized. The scene was especially jarring to readers in the way it comes out of nowhere, and how over-the-top gratuitous is really is.
Well, The Boys TV series showrunner Eric Kripke was initially leaning toward avoiding the Starlight sexual assault subplot entirely, when coming up with the storyline, but his writing staff wouldn't let him off the hook that easily. As he tells EW, "This was my female writers and producers saying, ‘This is something that happens, we think it’s important to talk about....'" which ultimately led to Kripke's decision to do “a serious and scary version of that story.”
The first revision saw something similar to what we got in the pilot, only tamer. It involved Starlight's subplot with Aquaman/Namor parody "The Deep" (Chace Crawford), serving as a mirror for actresses trying to work in a toxic male Hollywood environment and having little defense against assault or harassment. But when the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in late 2017, the massive shift in social discourse forced Kripke to rethink this pivotal scene all over again:
"Originally, Starlight was going to deal with this assault and then she really had no recourse except to take on the Deep directly," Kripke recalls. "She was going to stand up and go after him because we weren’t living in a society where women were being believed when they speak out."
But after the Weinstein scandal and the rise of the #MeToo movment, “Suddenly, you could speak, and you could actually bring a really powerful motherf— down," Kripke says. "Instead of a story happening behind closed doors like everything had been, suddenly it was a story [Starlight] was speaking out about, and [the Deep] was suffering publicly as a result."
Indeed, Starlight's character arc in The Boys season 1 reflects a lot of the complicated and uncomfortable realities of the #MeToo and #TimesUp eras that are still unfolding. Public response to her speech about her assault, and the resulting PR spin from the Vought company also reflect some of the darker and more cynical responses to those women's empowerment movements. All in all, it's one of several welcome real-world discussions that The Boys manages to raise - and fans are loving that the show has substance to go with all the spectacle, in some way more so than the comic ever did.
The Boys is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.