The Boys: Dirty Business
July 4, 2024 12:20 PM - Season 4, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Content warning: male sexual abuse, played for laughs.

You definitely have a problem when The Boys subreddit has a 900+ comment thread agreeing that this wasn't OK.

Was this maybe a clumsy attempt to highlight the way the media ignores male sexual abuse? it doesn't look like it: here's a quote from this interview with Eric Kripke in Variety:
Let’s start with the Tek Knight sex dungeon part. Where did the idea come for it? And why bring Hughie into this situation now — kicking him when he’s down by having him sexually assaulted by his childhood hero after his dad just died?

Well, that’s a dark way to look at it! We view it as hilarious.
posted by simonw (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I fast forwarded through a lot of it because I just could not watch it. Even with that, I'm really revolted by what I did see. I'd say the sexual assault was awful enough but when seen in context, it's just brutal. And I agree with the commenters who noted if this was a gender reverse situation, there is NO WAY this would fly being played for laughs and the scene would have likely ended significantly earlier.

I'm also not thrilled with a lot of the comments in that reddit thread like the ones suggesting that it's totally fine because Hughie was undercover. While Tek and Ashley don't know it's not Webweaver, there is someone chained to the wall who obviously wishes to escape and both are FINE with that suggesting neither one is particularly bothered by a lack of consent. I'd add Ashley was fine with framing Coleman resulting in his murder for dumping her. Knight is clearly a sadist who enjoys causing pain and therefore looks for excuses to justify inflicting it on others. This separates his sadism from his compulsion to fuck inanimate objects.

It unfortunately overshadows everything else that happened this episode, which was a lot. Finally confirmation that Kessler is a hallucination (and that Butcher was responsible for the real Kessler's death) which seems to put Butcher in place to being the Big Bad of the final season. There's the question of Sage's endgame because she can, by her own admission, cure cancer and end global warming, but has a very dark view of humanity including other supes plus and so is apparently fine with internment camps. But I'm still unclear what she actually wants, although she clearly wants something to suffer through being in a room with that crowd. And Neuman has been recorded saying some awful stuff (which reminds me, probably not accidentally, of Romney being caught on camera dismissing 47% of the US population is being "government dependent).

And then there's Starlight pretty much channeling how I've felt all week "I knew it was bad but..." and then remembering her bf is dealing with being assaulted as well as the death of his father.

Oh and I almost forgot about the super star spangled shot of HL enjoying Firecracker's only slightly heart enlarging lactating breasts for the 4th of july.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:34 PM on July 4 [2 favorites]

Yuck. I clicked on this from the description because it sounded like...well...why it took me several years to watch the pilot of this show, which I finally did last week. I read the comics series when it was new, mostly liked it, but recalled many things that, quite frankly, I didn't want to see in live action, beginning with Starlight being pressured into sex in exchange for getting into The Seven. That scene was toned down a LOT for the show, and I was hoping that the general edge-lordiness of the comic had been jettisoned for a 2020s audience that didn't really see the wacky side of sexual assault.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:33 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]

This reddit post showcases a meme that illustrates Kripke's markedly different approach to Starlight being sexually assaulted by her childhood hero.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:33 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]

I haven't read the comics myself, but from what I've heard the TV show is mostly an enormous improvement on them - all sorts of awful stuff from the comics has been replaced or subverted. It's one of the reasons I'm so annoyed about this episode - I genuinely expect much better from this show!
posted by simonw at 6:37 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]

That Reddit meme absolutely nails it.
posted by simonw at 6:41 PM on July 4 [2 favorites]

Also I want to thank you simonw for this post because without it, I would have gone into this episode blind, which would have been even more awful.
posted by miss-lapin at 9:50 PM on July 4

Yeah.. the sex dungeon part was not great. I hope they address the effect this has to have had on hughie in the next episode but I'm not holding my breath.
posted by Pendragon at 2:09 AM on July 5

Well, I saw it as commentary, and the comedy of the undercover set up, which put the character into the situation, that augments the degeneracy of the rich character. But then there is a turn.

But i admit that I fast forwarded through the later scenes, so agree with the point that they did it wrong.

it does set up that the only way to hurt the rich is to take their money, and that is how the wronged make justice.while taking revenge.

But the show has firmly established by now that supes are generally rapists and worth killing, so I agree that what was shown was unnecessary.

I am sorry for the misstep because it is a very good episode otherwise
posted by eustatic at 6:57 AM on July 5

This is definitely the kind of thing that happens in the comics a lot. It's true that in general the show has done a good job of toning down Garth Ennis's more juvenile edge-lord tendencies, but sometimes they shine through, as here. Ennis also has an unfortunate tendency to use having a kink or being a sexual minority as a shorthand for a character's moral turpitude or lack of integrity, though he goes out of his way at one point to show us how Butcher has a gay best friend (or something like that, the details elude me after 2400+ pages of The Boys and I'm not planning to reread it to check).

The sex dungeon stuff was an off-putting, gross waste of time, but for me the best moment in this episode was when Homelander makes his coup d'etat pitch to the masters of the universe and they immediately start grilling him about how he'll handle the military, the stock market, and all the other things he hasn't actually thought through. Sometimes Anthony Starr's performance is the only thing keeping this show interesting.
posted by whir at 8:21 AM on July 5 [3 favorites]

I don't think Ennis is to blame for this particular issue. While Tek Knight had powerful sexual compulsions in the comic and actually raped his butler's ear, this particular storyline with Ashley and Webweaver was Kripke's idea because he "could not resist" the idea of Spiderman going into the Batcave only to discover it's a sex dungeon.And if it was JUST that it would easily fit into the Boysverse without much trouble. After all, we consistently see heroes using their powers for various kinks not to mention Herogasm. Having Hughie sexually assaulted by Tek Knight would still work within the context of the show IF it was treated the same way as Starlight's assault. And the scene could have easily ended much MUCH sooner. The only reason it's a problem is that it's a very long scene played for laughs and that's because Kriple honestly thought it was funny. He said in interviews he found it hilarious as opposed to his very sensitive treatment of Starlight's assault.

Ultimately it's Kripke's decisions and sensibilities that's behind this particular mess.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:49 AM on July 5 [2 favorites]

That was a deeply repellant episode. In no way should that have been played for laughs and I'm not sure if I can watch this show any more. Ugh
posted by Tabitha Someday at 11:32 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]

Ultimately it's Kripke's decisions and sensibilities that's behind this particular mess.

I agree 100%. It's just that I think his decisions and sensibilities here are very much in line with Ennis's from the original comic.
posted by whir at 1:06 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]

Kripke makes great TV but his take on masculinity and gender is deeply deeply fucked up on any closer inspection. I bailed on live watching the Boys a while ago because it is too brutal, although it is a gorgeously shot and acted show, and Kripke was a major reason.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:32 AM on July 6

Having read some comments before watching, I was expecting a lot worse than what happened, but I can see why it bothered people a LOT. I imagine that from Kripke's perspective, the fact that Hughie was fully clothed (except for his feet) and was never actually penetrated by anything, just verbally degraded and covered in whatever gross bodily fluids Tek Knight & Ashley splurted on him. I would imagine that he would see it as just another version of the joke with the OCD germaphobe MM constantly getting covered in jizz and other grossness, rather than thinking of it as a scene of sexual assault. As whir mentions, this is the most Ennis-like thing (in the worst way) the show has done.

Other bits: Homelander getting flustered in front of the politicians was a great moment -- another kick to his fragile, murderous ego. Sage with brain damage is HILARIOUS. "I ate a whole bag of candy corn... with my mouth!" And her just nodding at Neumann after her speech -- great little bit of goofy comedy in the midst of a horrifying scene of high treason.

How did Firecracker know about Homelander's breastfeeding fetish? Did that secret get out in a previous season?

Also: Starlight is dumb for not beating Firecracker to the (metaphorical) punch and publicly apologizing for being cruel to her on the pageant circuit. The Boys in general are dumb for not releasing the orgy footage they have of Ezekiel -- he's dead now, might as well try to ruin his reputation posthumously.

Finally also: How did they cover up the multiple murders (accidentally) committed by Hughie's dad in the previous episode? Like, that's a lot of dead people? I can buy Vought covering up the slaughter at the VoughtCoin Arena (of course they are involved in crypto), but The Boys have a bit more of a shoestring operation, so how they managed that is something. (Also, previously, how did Starlight get a presidential pardon for Stan Edgar, since Singer told her he couldn't associate with her anymore?)
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:40 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]

How did they cover up the multiple murders (accidentally) committed by Hughie's dad in the previous episode?

I don't really expect the show to do anything but hand-wave this away, but I guess if the killer is dead there isn't really any crime to prosecute any more, and Vought would have an incentive to explain away these deaths as medical mishaps versus uncontrolled supe outbreaks. It does seem like it would put Hughie and his mom squarely in Vought's radar, but Hughie is already known to Vought and his mom (assuming that really is his mom, I've got my doubts) is maybe already a double-agent.
posted by whir at 8:05 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]

That was a deeply repellant episode. In no way should that have been played for laughs and I'm not sure if I can watch this show any more. Ugh

I mean, this has been a pretty repellant show/story practically from day-1, and it just keeps getting worse. Maybe it’s a long-form experiment in just how ugly/reprehensible a show can get and still keep a solid viewership?
posted by Thorzdad at 5:36 AM on July 13

I didn't like this either. But it doesn't seem a difference in kind from the rest of the show. The show has been repellent and playing absolute brutality and awfulness for laughs since the very beginning. It's like "The Aristocrats" only not funny. I respect that this particular instance may be the one that's too much for many viewers.
posted by Nelson at 12:36 PM on July 13

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