The latest episode of The Boys was the superhero drama at its most political (major spoilers ahead).
Set in a universe where superpowered people are recognised as heroes and influencers to the general public, the Amazon Prime series focuses on a team of vigilantes who aim to take down the corrupt members of ‘The Seven’; the world’s supreme superhero team (think Justice League or The Avengers).
The first season introduced audiences to Queen Maeve – played by House of Cards star Dominique McElligott – a Wonder Woman-esque heroine who joined the team to save lives, unlike other members of the team who desire fame, glory and power. However, Meave suffers from burnout and PTSD, and unbeknownst to the rest of the team, is romantically involved with a woman.
In season two, Homelander (Antony Starr) – the team’s narcissistic and violent leader – outs Maeve on live television, before threatening her girlfriend’s life. Episode five continues this arc, opening with Maeve shooting a film based on the formation of The Seven, which has been rewritten to include her sexuality.
During the purposefully cringe-worthy scene, Maeve’s character goes in for a kiss with another female hero, which comes to a halt as the director yells “cut!” The whole scene feels like a commentary on the lack of LGBTQ+ heroes in mainstream media, while the director’s refusal to show same-sex intimacy tackles the tokenistic representation in major blockbusters such as Avengers: Endgame, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Beauty and the Beast; all of which included incredibly minor queer characters in blink-and-miss-it roles.
Later, Meave and Elena, her girlfriend, sit down with Vought – the powerful corporation who markets and monetises The Seven – to discuss how Elena will be introduced into the public sphere. Their discussion shined a light on bisexual erasure, as well as stigmas that still surround queer women.
“Queen Maeve, a goddess, but our empress of the other world struggles inside,” the members of Vought propose to Maeve as her storyline. “Questions of identity rock her to her core, until she meets Elena. The connection is immediate, all consuming, a sweet, sapphic love blossoms; raising Maeve’s consciousness and revealing her own inner truth. She’s gay, and it’s okay!” In another cringe-worthy moment, Vought then shows Maeve an image of the hero as she waves the rainbow flag.
As Maeve and Elena sit in silence, dumbfounded, Vought continue: “It’s powerful. She’s more than just a superhero now, she is a symbol. Representation matters! She’s hashtag Brave Maeve. We’re recommending a multi-pronged image makeover. First, guest spots on Queer Eye, then an exclusive ‘It Gets Better’ PSA.”
After calling them “two proud lesbians,” Elena informs Vought that Maeve is bisexual. Ashley (Colby Minife) – the company’s vice-president – tells them that “lesbian is an easier sell” and that it’s “more cut and dry” for the general public.
Elena hits out at Vought for proposing she don “menswear” instead of feminine clothing, to which they respond: “Research has shown that two feminine women in a relationship sends a problematic message. Americans are more accepting of gays when they’re in a clear cut gender role relationship, like Ellen and Portia.”
Their interaction with Vought makes a point about the stereotypical portrayal of queer relationships in the media, and the lack of representation for bisexual stories. Vought also reflects the attitudes of real-world corporations who aren’t willing to include LGBTQ+ storylines to appease their conservative markets.
Elsewhere in the episode, new hero Stormfront (Aya Cash) continued to show her true “Nazi” colours as she made comments with racist undertones to A-Train (Jessie T. Usher), the sole Black member of The Seven, and teamed up with Homelander to correct his tainted new image.
The series also stars Karl Urban, Jack Quaid, Laz Alonso, Tomer Capon and Karen Fukuhara as the members of The Boys, as well as Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito as Stan Edgar, the CEO of Vought International.
The Boys season two airs every Friday on Amazon Prime – watch the trailer below.