"THE BOYS": The Best TV Series Ever Produced about America
Updated: Jul 7, 2022
A fellow storyteller suggested to me that “THE BOYS” desensitizes viewers to violence, making it dangerous to American culture. I couldn’t disagree with him more, and in the reason why is also why I believe "THE BOYS" is the greatest TV series ever produced about America.
(Sorry "THE WEST WING", it's not even close).
I’ll get back to “THE BOYS”, I promise, but consider: Hollywood has been producing stories with moving images for 120 years now. Same for the rest of the globe. For example, THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY’s final shot also provoked concerned outcries about violence way back in 1903.
That final shot was so powerful, Martin Scorsese borrowed it as the final shot in GOODFELLAS more than eight decades later, as part of his commentary on America’s elevation of organized crime into a career choice.
But despite 120 years of these depictions of violence and 120 years of similarly accused of desensitizing audiences to violence, the late-20th century and the 21st century have seen a massive decline in global violence -- including even warfare.
There are exceptions to this statement, and some trends are reversing, especially in the US, but overall art has not beget violence despite how desperately the Far Right has tried to convince us it has to distract from their cult-like obsession with guns.
If this onscreen gun violence accomplishes anything, it creates the idea that guns are a fixed part of American culture we must accept rather than an aberrant feature as they are elsewhere around the globe. But again, violent crime rates are way down over the past century.
"But, Cole, what about the rise in America's mass shootings?" Well, the obvious difference in America -- compared to the rest of the world -- is the convenient availability of firearms. It’s part of the reason why I moved abroad. You can read more about that here.
Getting back to “THE BOYS”, it holds a mirror up to what America has become. And while it’s a hit in America, it’s also a hit abroad where most people now see America and, more and more, Americans, like the world depicted on this series.
But the violence in “THE BOYS" is more creatively insidious than just holding up a mirror to America. It is to make audiences, including the liberals who have decided to champion it, into active participants in the grotesquerie America has become.
On one hand, liberals denounce such violence. On the other, they enjoy the violence because American culture is built on triumph by bloodshed and, in 2022, we still celebrate these violent tropes as heroic rather than apologize for them as the sins of our past.
I'd suggest the violence in "THE BOYS" is like cheese in the mousetrap. You like cheese, you can't resist it. It even makes you laugh. But after that first bite, the trap springs and, voila, you're watching one of -- if not the most -- anti-American TV series ever produced.
You keep watching “THE BOYS” after this, because you can't stop now. You've still got that cheese in your mouth. And every bite makes it clearer and clearer, as the trap pinches your neck, that the situation you're in is all your fault.
It’s how we got Trump, isn’t it? We found him and his act entertaining, even in our revulsion. Others confused this act with reality, but we didn't take them seriously…until it was too late.
In other words, “THE BOYS” implicates me, you, all of us in American culture and everything that America has turned into.
"THE BOYS" also one of the only series doing this, making it a vital and urgent pieces of art in a TV and film landscape that is largely shying away from such confrontational or, say, polarizing subjects in fear of losing audiences in an increasingly divided America and world.
Long story short: without "THE BOYS'" violence, without its creative team holding that mirror up to us, confronting us, condemning us, we lose a vital voice of dissent against everything America has been and the authoritarianism it is slipping towards.
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You can also read about and pre-order my debut novel PSALMS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (1st September) by clicking here or on the following image. I've often described it as a novel about how grief, love, and quantum physics connects us all.