About a month ago, the subversive television hit The Boys delivered an episode that split the opinions of its fanbase. Homelander, a superhero with, shall we say, spurious morals did something truly villainous and indefensible. Some fans who agreed with Homelander’s politics were offended, believing the character to be an antihero fighting for their beliefs.
While the resulting news coverage was blown out of proportion, the fact remains that some viewers weren’t bright enough to see that the show condemns and discourages Homelander’s beliefs. Thus, he joins a long line of TV and movie antagonists, from Archie Bunker to The Joker, that accidentally inspire a segment of their viewers.
Media representation of how a person should behave (or NOT behave) has long been the concern of groups across the political spectrum. This very newsletter covered the consequences of what can happen when people are represented in a stereotypical way. Plastic surgeons noted that breast implant demand fell and butt implant requests rose starting in 2007–the same year that Keeping up with the Kardashians started. Psychologists conducted a study that showed viewers of Grey’s Anatomy took riskier surgery options because they believed they would be resuscitated. Mister Rogers even came out of retirement to do a special telling kids not to jump off high places because Superman did!
Clearly, the media leaves a powerful impression on the public. Currently, in the United States, politics divide many of my fellow countrymen, yet I guarantee that near everyone would like to see every cable news network disappear. Many of their parasitic, fear-mongering ilk hold responsibility for the anger and hatred present at so many protests and counterprotests. Who can then say that content creators are immune from the consequences of what they create?
Conversely, though, psychological studies have proven time and again that playing violent video games does NOT lead to violent actions (with some even suggesting that it can alleviate wartime PTSD). I have seen every Fast and the Furious movie and have logged dozens of hours into Mario Kart, yet I’ve never had a desire to ram into someone on the highway and steal any loose change they may drop because of the collision.
I argue that the media does not control people’s actions but, rather, helps to shape their viewers’ perspectives. An old communications professor I had said it best: “The media doesn’t tell you what to think; it tells you what to think about.”
Content creators must, therefore, take reasonable measures not to warp their viewers’ perceptions in a way that could lead to self-harm or harm of others.
This leads to a nigh unsolvable problem: to regulate media’s influence over perspective would eviscerate freedom of speech and overall liberty.
The short-term fix, unfortunately, lies with the audience. I’m not terribly concerned over the content people watch, but I implore viewers to think about the messages their content delivers.
Basically, I think The Boys is handling their villain just fine. I just hope ALL the viewers got the message this time.
This movie’s kinetic plot and katana-sharp editing propel this movie to excellent summer entertainment. Its colors pop and its rhythm, initially over stylized, settles quickly down the right track. Ignore the stuffier critics (who mistakenly credit Tarantino as this film’s muse rather than the anime style that Tarantino himself cribbed from) and punch this ticket.
Warner Bros. and Discovery continue their merge, smashing together like two planets, indifferent to the shrapnel they eject in the process.
To meet tax-credit requirements, HBO Max is shedding 36 original shows from their service, Infinity Train being the best of the bunch. Watch this anthology animation about teens who, in dire need of growth, board a purgatorial transit system–before the powers that be decommission it.
Stream on HBO Max