Homelander's Season 3 Arc Is A Scary Look At Our Current Hellscape

There's no denying it: straight white men in America are extremely angry, and they're making sure that everyone knows about it. Between the January 6 insurrectionists, the near-daily shootings in random public places, and the screaming fear-mongering mouthpieces in places of power, straight white men are honestly absolutely terrifying. Before the "#NotAllMen" crowd start sending me threats, let me clarify: this is not about individual straight white guys, who can be perfectly lovely people, but rather is about the collective representation of them in our lives right now. The violent, misogynistic, hateful white supremacist men are a small percentage of the population, but they're by far the loudest and most dangerous, and it feels like they've been getting louder and more deadly by the day. Nowhere is safe: not grocery stores, not elementary schools, not even funerals

Superhero subversions are all the rage right now, and while several have commented on the fractured state of America and the rise of the far right, none have done it quite as pointedly as the Prime Video series "The Boys," based on the comic book series of the same name. While "Peacemaker" took a character raised to uphold every part of toxic masculinity and white supremacy and flipped the script, making him grow into something better, "The Boys" has characters who continue to double down on their worst behavior, and none is as bad as Antony Starr's Homelander.

Season 2 peered deeper into the character's past and his ability for empathy (believe it or not, he has some), though he fell in love with a woman who turned out to be not only a neo-Nazi, but an actual Nazi from World War II. He both appeared to accept and reject her beliefs, and it set him up for a complete identity crisis at the beginning of season 3 that will most likely end in bloodshed. "The Boys" is a startling mirror of our own world with razor-sharp satire, and Homelander's arc is a deeply disturbing look at America's greatest threat to itself. 

Spoilers for season 3, episode 2 of "The Boys" ahead.

Sympathy for the Supe

It would be easy to completely dismiss Homelander as an over-the-top take on American masculinity and nationalism, but the series has been careful not to make him completely one-dimensional. Like all of the characters, he exists in a morally ambiguous area, where a great deal of what he does is clearly evil, but there is sometimes good in him, too.

His arc in season 2 seemed to show him moving towards being a less hateful Homelander, bonding with both his new love and his son, and it seemed for a moment like he could find his version of happiness. All Homelander ever wanted was a family, because he was raised by Vought scientists and executives, trained to be a puppet for their propaganda and nothing else. His moments of softness, especially with his son Ryan (Cameron Crovetti) showed us that even this fascist egomaniac was capable of compassion.

Starr's performance is nuanced, showing worlds of expression behind cold eyes and a set jaw, and as such, the character transcended what could easily be a simply parody and became something much more real. Many of us have known men who were victims of the patriarchy as much as they promoted it themselves, raised by abusive fathers and living in a world that reinforced their worst tendencies, and Homelander has become a perfect representation with all of these disillusioned, angry men. Thankfully, as much as the series shows him being handsome and powerful, it also shows him at his weakest: a sniveling loser who just wants someone, anyone, to actually love him. 

Embracing extremism

After having a horrific birthday where Stormfront killed herself, Homelander snaps during his televised celebration ceremony. Starlight (Erin Moriarty) tells everyone that Homelander is going to donate money to her charity organization, and he finally breaks. He tells the entire world that he's sick of apologizing, that he's the hero they should all worship, and that he has been leashed and muzzled by Vought.

He sounds an awful lot like the talking heads that have further divided American politics. He's Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and every other man who realized that they could be their worst selves and be put on a pedestal for it by other sad, desperate men. They weaponized that desperation, calling back to a time when "men were men" and women were in the kitchen. It appeals to every lonely, angry straight white guy out there who expected to be handed a career, a wife, a house, and 2.5 kids and instead have debt, no one to turn to, and a browser history that would make your eyes bleed.

When he goes on his angry screed, Todd, who is dating Mother's Milk's ex-wife Monique (Frances Turner), looks almost aroused while he looks on. He smiles slightly and perks up, feeling emboldened by Homelander's stand. Todd, you see, is extremely insecure, something he shows any time Mother's Milk is around because MM is bigger and much tougher than Todd could ever try to be. Men who feel that they don't fit society's weird ideal of manhood tend to take it badly, and heroes like Homelander embolden them to behave boorishly.

A vicious cycle

We've already seen footage from later this season when Homelander is greeted by excited fans that look like they were cast at a Donald Trump rally, and it makes the allegory that much more brutally clear. By being angry, violent, and bigoted publicly, he gives others permission to do the same, and that's a terrifying proposition that's all too real.

If Peacemaker is the perfect example of how someone can be radicalized and find a way out, Homelander is the version that has their horrific beliefs reinforced and amplified. Homelander is a perfect representation of the alienated and angry Americans who want to get their way regardless of the cost. He's as American as apple pie and burning crosses, and now he has a fanbase who want him to embody the worst in himself and this nation. It's a vicious cycle where the fans and the idol continuously up the ante, and it can only end in disaster.

The first three episodes of "The Boys" season 3 are currently streaming on Prime Video.