The Deep standing in front of a statue of The Boys.

‘The Boys’ Offers a Nuanced Portrayal of Sexual Assault

Amazon’s original superhero series gives a social commentary of many of the world’s evils, including what prompted the #MeToo movement.
September 15, 2020
9 mins read

We all know that with great power comes great responsibility, but Amazon Original “The Boys” proves the opposite. From the first episode, you realize that with great power comes great destruction. And while we’ve been conditioned to think that superheroes are good, the Amazon series crafts a different narrative.

The series is based on the comic book of the same name, by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. The Boys is a small group of mercenaries chasing a famous ensemble of A-list superheroes called The Seven. The Boys, headed by Billy Butcher (Karl Urban), Hughie Campbell (Jack Quaid), Mother’s Milk (Laz Alonso) and Frenchie (Tomer Capon), are all threaded together by their individual vendettas against the “heroes.”


The Seven aren’t your average, squeaky-clean superheroes like the icons of Marvel and DC Comics, and The Boys are trying very hard to air their dirty laundry.

In the very first episode, we’re introduced to Queen Maeve and Homelander as they are saving two kids from being hit by a runaway Brink’s truck. Instantly we think, “Wow! Superheroes doing what they do: saving people.” But later in the first episode, one of the main characters, Huey, witnesses his girlfriend accidentally killed by A-Train (a fast-running “supe”), thus opening up a can of worms.

From that point on, the show shifts. We learn that the good within the superheroes is just a facade for what is done behind closed doors.

Interestingly enough, the superheroes in the show are far from heroes. And what’s even more interesting is that although the show is made for entertainment, it reflects today’s climate.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

The very first episode of “The Boys” is packed with several punches, and not just the action-packed kind. When Starlight, a pure-hearted superhero with good intentions, is inducted into The Seven, she learns that all that glitters is not gold.

She’s not even a member of The Seven for a full day before her new co-worker and fellow superhero The Deep sexually harasses her.

While giving her a tour of the meeting room, the two have a friendly conversation and seem to connect. In their brief bonding moment, he implies that Starlight, real name Annie, probably had a thing for their leader, Homelander, while she was growing up. She shyly explains that she was actually a fan of his, The Deep’s. “I kind of had a crush on you,” she says.

When she turns around to face The Deep, his pants are down. Starlight is completely mortified. The Deep dismisses her feelings and basically puts the blame on her. While not directly saying “you were asking for it,” he says, “Well, you said you had a crush on me. I figured …”

And when Starlight still does not consent, he says he can easily get her kicked off the team. Though we don’t see the rest of the scene, we know that Annie is forced to perform a sex act on The Deep. We see the aftermath, and she later opens up about it publicly.

This scene reflects the traumas that are created within the real world and within Hollywood, especially as it pertains to sexual harassment. It also touches on how aggressors can intentionally misread a situation or words that are being communicated.

There’s also a correlation between the elite members of The Seven and real-world public figures. The Deep represents using power for evil, much like key Hollywood figure Harvey Weinstein.

Weinstein was a heavy name in Hollywood and possessed so much power that it was easy to intimidate potential whistleblowers. Many women who tried to speak out about the sexual harassment they endured from him were blacklisted — which is exactly what The Deep tried to do to Starlight.

The company, Vought, normally turns a blind eye to this kind of assault — Starlight was not The Deep’s first victim. But Starlight makes it clear that she wants change within the company, and she refuses to keep things secret. Vought is forced to take action and remove The Deep from The Seven.

Men are sexually assaulted too

While The Deep is away from The Seven, he endures his own sexual assault, which is very important for the message being conveyed in the show. It shows that any man can be assaulted. Male sexual assault is something that is often swept under the rug. Seeing it happen on television is an important part of accurately portraying sexual violence.

What was supposed to be a hookup with a fan in his hotel room turned into a moment I’m sure The Deep wished he could forget. When the fan asks to touch his gills, he reminds her that they’re tender. She ignores this and continues to roughly jab her fingers into his gills, causing him immense pain.

He repeatedly and painfully tells her to stop, but his pleas are dismissed.

We might be mad at The Deep for what he put Starlight through, but it’s hard not to feel sympathetic toward him when karma comes around. It’s a timely commentary on the #MeToo movement, but it manages to walk the line of making the aggressor complex and sympathetic while not justifying his actions.

It was also important for the series to include sexual violence against men due to the stigma and judgment men feel. More importantly, like women, men don’t always come out about sexual assault, so they too suffer in silence.

The Psychiatric Times reports just how often men experience sexual assault before they turn 18.

“Indeed, some may find it surprising that at least 1 in 6 boys is sexually abused before their 18th birthday. This number rises to 1 in 4 men who experience unwanted sexual events across their lifetime. To wrap your head around those numbers, picture a large college football stadium filled with 100,000 seats. If the audience was solely male, that would mean that at least 25,000 men have been or will be sexually assaulted.”

“The Boys” is not a show that’s all about sexual assault, however; it touches on other aspects and power dynamics that reflect what happens in the world. But sexual assault is one of society’s major problems. “The Boys” does a great job showing that not all power is used for good and that we all have our own demons to overcome.

Yasmeen Ludy, University of Michigan

Writer Profile

Yasmeen Ludy

University of Michigan
Communications and Media Studies

I am a passionate journalist and storyteller. I love anchoring three WOLV TV shows, ​Candid Conversations, NewsFeed, and EBuzz​. I have also written for the Michigan Daily and interned for WDIV Channel Local 4.

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