Superhero programming on opposite sides of the family-friendly spectrum
“Hey dad,” said my 19-year-old son, “Did you see there’s a new season of The Boys out?”
I’m the editor of a pop-culture magazine, I said to him. It’s my job to know that.
“Do you wanna watch it?”
“Do you wanna watch it soon?”
“Like, really soon?”
He was like a three-year-old asking me if I wanted to go see the baby lion at the zoo. I promised Elijah that I would watch The Boys with him.
But a couple of evenings passed. I had important commitments at the poker table. Last night, he said,
“What do you think about The Boys after dinner?”
Fine, I said. “But Mom doesn’t like The Boys. Let’s all watch the Marvel show first, as a family.”
So we all sat down with the premiere episode of ‘Ms. Marvel,’ on Disney+. It’s a warm, humor-filled teen superhero origin story. Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teen from Jersey City, is a huge Avengers fan. She gets a magic bangle in the mail from her grandmother which gives her superpowers. “It’s not really the brown girls from Jersey City who save the world,” she says. Ah, but I’m guessing she probably will!
Newcomer Iman Vellani is super-charming as our heroine. Kamala Khan is kind of a dorky underdog but doesn’t exactly undergo tortured bullying like, say, Millie Bobby Brown in the current season of Stranger Things. She’s quite self-confident and talented and has nice friends. She’s just an ordinary middle-class Muslim girl who develops super-powers. The family dynamics are cute and wholesome and vaguely reminiscent of the ones in Pixar’s recent ‘Turning Red.’ The show plays with comic-book imagery and emojis in clever ways. It’s about as “gee whiz” as modern superhero entertainment can get.
“I really liked that,” Elijah said when it was done. “It was fun.”
Ms. Marvel was fun. Fun for the whole family.
Then mom fucked right off and Elijah and I watched The Boys.
Within the first five minutes, a character called “Termite,” who is a parody of Ant-Man, was doing lines of coke at a party with his gay lover. “I want you inside of me,” the lover said. And then Termite shrunk down small. The camera did a closeup of his lover’s dick. And I mean a CLOSE-UP 0f his pee hole magnified 1000 times. And then we got to see Termite playing around inside the dick. Then Termite sneezed from the coke, went to regular size, and his lover ripped in half, his guts strewn all over the bed.
“Ah,” I said to Elijah, “I remember when I used to watch shows with my dad about tiny gay superheroes going inside their lovers dicks and exploding.”
“That was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I would have been embarrassed to watch it with anyone, much less you.”
The rest of Elijah’s eagerly anticipated episode of The Boys featured two exploding heads, which is kind of a small number for The Boys. There was also a scene where a hideously burned Nazi superheroine gives a handjob to the evil protagonist, Homelander. And some media parody, and lots of boring conversations where we catch up with the characters we love to hate. It’s pretty standard fare for The Boys, whose entire mission is to take a big long pee over our superhero-bloated pop culture. Either you like it, or you don’t. But maybe don’t watch it with your kids, even if they’re 19.
Regardless, we in a time where a wholesome show about Muslim Pakistani teen with superpowers can live alongside a gay coke addict with superpowers. One saves the world, while the other explodes penises when he sneezes. Either way you slice it, this is a golden age of content.