This weekend’s poorly attended Million Maga March in Washington, DC saw hundreds upon hundreds of Donald Trump’s supporters listlessly wandering the streets while denying the reality that Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. Some watching the news might have been surprised that one attendee decided to show up cosplaying as Homelander, a character from Amazon’s The Boys. We were not.
Homelander, for those unfamiliar with the character, exists as The Boys’ answer to both Superman and Captain America. But he hides a deep-seated depravity and sociopathy behind his carefully constructed (but imperfect) veneer of American exceptionalism and militant patriotism. Were the public to know the truth about Homelander’s war crimes, his associations with actual Nazis, and his honest desire to rule the world, it would understand that he’s anything but a hero. It’s a fact the series uses to make you root that much more for its actual foul-mouthed protagonists.
As a photo of the ersatz Homelander at the march began circulating over the weekend, The Boys showrunner Eric Kripke, actor Antony Starr (who portrays the character), and co-creator of The Boys comic Darick Robertson all took to their respective Twitter pages to remind everyone that Homelander’s a villain, and to express their doubts whether the cosplayer actually understood The Boys.
It is one thing to look at the aggrieved rally-goer with their latchkey costume complete with an oversized cutout of Donald Trump’s face and think to yourself “These people have too much time on their hands.” But to assume that a person attending a Trump event while dressed up as a fictional fascist tyrant doesn’t understand what they’re doing is to give them far too much benefit of the doubt.
— Eric Kripke (@therealKripke) November 15, 2020
While The Boys’ creative team clearly wants its audience to see Homelander as a villain who embodies a profound darkness and threat to society as a whole, the character also represents a sort of worldview that a not insignificant number of people are amiable to. Even though the basic story being told in the picture — that a superheroic Trump successfully imprisoned Joe Biden — is the worst sort of lazy fanfiction, the idea of discomfited conservatives seeing Homelander as a character to look up to doesn’t seem all the out of touch with reality.
Dull jokes and memes meant to “trigger” people have played a significant role in the way that white supremacist circles have strategically pulled people into their ranks. What might initially appear to be a badly crafted “joke” at someone’s expense, or a misunderstanding that Homelander is one of The Boys’ central villains, can instead be an invitation to echo the idea at the heart of the message. In this case, that amounts to something along the lines of: “President Trumplander Locked Biden Up.”
All of this is quite stupid on its face, yes, but people who “joke” around about idolising fascists are seldom only joking, and in instances where they tell the world what kind of people they are, we should take note and understand exactly how insidious what they’re saying is.