‘The Boys’ Season 4 Outrage Proves The Lack Of Media Literacy Is A Pandemic

The Boy Season 4 has received a lot of criticism, which shows that a lot of people missed the actual point of the show.

For a show that’s taken huge creative swings, The Boys Season 4 finds itself facing significant backlash like never before, with its audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes being the lowest to date (52% at the time of writing). According to some viewers, the series has become too political or “woke” for its own good, as it tackles issues of misinformation and radical agendas. In addition, a subsection of the audience appears genuinely surprised that Homelander isn’t such a nice guy after all and might be the villain of this whole darn story.

What’s most alarming about this turn of events isn’t the opinion – because hey, everyone is entitled to one – it’s the blatant lack of media literacy on display. Here’s a newsflash, folks: The Boys has been all those things it’s been accused of since its first episode debuted in 2019.  

The Boys isn’t about the supes or humans – it’s political

In an interview with Variety, The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke explained how politics played a major part in the program from early on and continued to develop as real-life world events happened. “We sort of lucked into a show whose metaphor is really about the moment we’re living in, which is the cross-section of celebrity and authoritarianism,” Kripke said. “And so once we realize that, we’re like, ‘Well, we have to go all the way.'”

Amazon Prime Video

Kripke elaborated on how the original comic book series deals with America’s society post-9/11, and the show follows in the same footsteps as it provides a social commentary of the current state of the world. The showrunner is correct about the source material, because even in his other comic book efforts, The Boys writer Garth Ennis has become known for tackling the illusion that America remains the moral compass of the world, as well as the dangers of unwavering patriotism when faced with facts. This isn’t exactly hidden in The Boys either, as Vought International and the Seven have always been harrowing warnings about what happens when centralized power and one viewpoint rule above all.

For Kripke, The Boys is a lot like South Park in the sense that it doesn’t back down from providing its opinion on what’s taking place in the world, no matter whom it may offend. “The show’s not subtle,” he told Variety. “It wears its politics on its sleeve. And it’s funny to rip on the madness on the right, and we get some shots in on the left of all the performative wokeness and everything.” Since there’s a big election taking place in America in 2024, is anyone really surprised the show chooses to say something about the political climate?

Homelander has always been the villain of the story

Forget about the countless memes or Antony Starr’s outstanding performance as Homelander for a second. The character itself – the leader of the Seven – isn’t an antihero like Deadpool or Venom. He’s a completely repulsive villain who has committed atrocities – even Eric Kripke doesn’t understand how viewers can see him as anything else. Lest we forget, this is the man who has killed innocent civilians, sexually assaulted Becca Butcher, willingly dated a Nazi, and demonstrated his racism over and over again. Yes, The Boys gives him a compelling backstory, showcasing how he’s also a product of a broken system, and he provides the occasional funny quip or moment – but this doesn’t absolve him of any of his crimes.

Amazon Prime Video

Now, in The Boys Season 4, he’s applying all the tricks of populist politics to appeal to his supporters and discredit the truth. This isn’t out of character for Homelander – not one bit, actually. It’s the natural evolution of his devious character. While he’s an all-powerful supe who can’t be stopped in a one-on-one fight, he’s now realized that information is the greatest power at his disposal. By controlling the narrative, he positions himself to hold the greatest power of them all. Homelander might adorn himself in the red, white, and blue, but he couldn’t care less about the flag or its people. It’s about his selfish interests; and it always has been.

Comic books have always been about socio-political issues

There’s a subsection of the internet calling for politics to stay out of comics. It’s a strange comment to make, since the medium and its adaptations have never shied away from socio-political discussions. Think of Captain America slugging Adolf Hitler on the cover of Captain America Comics #1, or Superman battling the Ku Klux Klan in Superman Smashes the Klan as two prime examples. It’s a pretty clear statement of what these comic book superheroes stand for, and they aren’t asking anyone to consider “both sides” here.

Unfortunately, the lack of critical thinking and media literacy are causing people to develop a concerning misunderstanding of these stories and what they’re about. Sure, there are powers, colorful personalities, and awesome poses, but these tales and characters have always been about something more – fighting for what’s right and against those who wrong others. For instance, look at the reaction toward X-Men ’97 from certain segments of the audience and the accusations of it being “woke.” How can anyone not see that the X-Men has always operated as a metaphor for marginalized communities and the intolerance they suffer in the world? It’s never been subtle or hidden. Not even once.

The Boys follows suit in a similar way. It might not be as on the nose as other comic book-related properties, and often lathers a layer of satire and humor on top of the intended message, but the comic book and show have always been about the dangers of absolute power and the deconstruction of the American dream. It peels back the curtain to illustrate how systems are created to benefit a few while exploiting many. If left unchecked, they only snowball into greater problems and tumble toward a point of no return. If that hits a little too close to home and makes people question the society they live in or the values promoted, good – that’s the whole point of it.

About the author

Sergio Pereira

Sergio is an entertainment journalist who has written about movies, television, video games, and comic books for over a decade and a half. Outside of journalism, he is an award-winning copywriter, screenwriter, and novelist. He holds a degree in media studies and psychology.