The Boys (2019)
'The Boys' Homelander: The Greatest Super-villain Brought To The Screen
By: Domonique Cox-Salberg
Potent, diabolical fun, The Boys is some of the most novel content within the superhero genre. In this dark universe, the characters, script, production, soundtrack, effects, and deconstruction of celebrity culture and superheroes are unmatched. Amid so many amazing moving parts, it is impressive that one feature can still stand-out among all its brilliance: Homelander. Played by the talented Antony Starr—Homelander is the most entertaining, intriguing, and accomplished aspect. He is a fully fleshed-out character that is not only unforgettable but sets the standard for the ultimate super-villain, established in his personality, internal conflicts, weaknesses, quirks, unpredictability, and more.
So, for the sake of making this article short(er), we’re going to narrow it down to the most important reasons why: Homelander is the greatest super-villain.
Personality: Unpredictable Depth
Narcissistic and purposely demented, Homelander is much more nuanced and far darker than we are accustomed to experiencing with villains. Hyper-violent and a sexual deviant, he is convincingly charming when he needs to be as calculation and self-interest are at the core of his interactions. Knowing all of this, it makes his particular mix of charisma and deception distinct and unusual, resulting in a more gripping persona.
The creators achieve this by amplifying his sinister nature without becoming a caricature of the archetypal villain. He is grounded, and hyper-aware, and his weaknesses and perverse tendencies are unveiled with tact. And, unlike most villains, Homelander’s ability to perfect the celebrity persona has allowed him to walk freely and justly among everyday people, making him even more threatening.
Created to complicate and darken the superhero archetype, Garth Ennis’ (writer of The Boys comic) creation of characters like Homelander are rare by default. However, that is not the only reason why he has become the best super-villain. Rather, it is apparent within his internal conflict, where he gains dimension and intrigue. Raised like a lab rat, Homelander knows nothing of where he comes from or genuine affection.
Being the top-ranked superhero at Vought, he has been cast into a leadership position and taught the celebrity code. It becomes all he knows. Using this status he has gained, we learn later into the season that he is after complete control of the corporation in charge of The Seven and, by extension, the entirety of the United States they protect. And in his quest for power, at any point, Homelander never descends into a cartoonish villain, and remains steadfast and focused.
As the rest of his backstory develops, Homelander is shown to be absent of any vices or indulgence, heartfelt with the press and crowds, yet one thing remains apparent—the clear air of menace he exudes. Bodies stack up, his façade of morality fades, and we learn he has not one inch of remorse, only pleasure in other’s pain and indifference to the lives he takes. Shown annoyed at the bloodying of his gloves from a man he kills, or the now infamous plane scene when he lets dozens of passengers die to protect the Vought image highlights what he is capable of and his temperament. But even in that realization, his villainous greatness is not entirely found.
It is the relationship between Homelander and Madelyn Stillwell (Elisabeth Shue), where the character surpasses any super-villain that has ever graced the screen. She is his internal conflict and primal obsession. Playing an impressive mastermind and boss behind The Seven and their success, her newborn child, Teddy, ignites the creepy relationship between her and Homelander. We witness his threatening stares at Teddy, jealous he never had a mother figure for which Madelyn picks up and eventually uses to manipulate him into behaving. Though, their complicated relationship is not as simple as ego and crappy upbringings. His envy is shown to be about the maternal care Teddy gets, not the attention, and how the creators handle it is what speaks to the characters quality.
Every maternal moment Homelander has with Madelyn is presented just as creepy as we all watching, see it as; while still recognizing the humanizing side, complicating his villainy without condoning it. It is a balancing act Hollywood fails to convey far too often. Super-villains like Magneto or Thanos are complicated antagonists presented in all their evil, but they weaken their menacing quality when empathy is attached.
As long as sympathy is a part of their telling, they become a less transcendent villain. This very notion is something Homelander does not lack, and what makes him a superior villain. When we watch him, the creators never ask us to empathize with his genuine and justifiable anger. Upon emotional moments involving Homelander, the creators choose to remind us that underneath it all, he is a multifaceted sociopath that should be feared, always.