The Boys: 7 BADASS Tropes That Kick The Sh*t Out Of Superhero Expectations!

Monday 16 September 2019

You must have at least heard of Amazon's smash hit show The Boys, even if you haven't seen it yet! And if you haven't? WHY? It really is so much more than just a show about superheroes. 

The Boys brought us a multi-layered approach to what constitutes good versus bad - which is exactly why I wanted to talk about 7 tropes we see in the show that totally turn our expectations on it's head. 

So, if you're looking to create multi-layered characters with a core that the audience can learn to love or hate - or love to hate in some cases, then carry on reading:

Adaptational Jerkass:
Billy Butcher

Billy may be the ringleader of The Boys, but he certainly isn't the wholesome leader everyone expects. 

As an adaptational Jerkass - Billy is mostly acting for the greater good, or so he believes but that doesn't mean he isn't capable and willing to commit some extreme acts if it means getting revenge for the one he loves. 

Adaptional Jerkass Characteristics are:

  • Specific character traits that the audience will come to recognise and expect. These can be good or bad traits. 
  • The character has suffered which has affected their view of the world.
  • This trope has the potential to have a heart of gold, but often give into their instincts to act on impulse - usually leading to bad things happening. 

Face of An Angel, Mind of A Demon:

Homelander is just THE WORST! Or is he THE BEST at being the worst?

Either way, what a brilliant character. 

As the leader of The Supes and the most recognised member of the squad, Homelander appears to be the epitome of the wholesome American leader with an army of fans. 

However, we know this is the total opposite of what he really is... that plane scene has to be one of the most memorable turning points of the series. 

So, Face Of An Angel, Mind Of A Demon - it boils down to having a squeaky clean image promoting perfect morals and being an upstanding citizen, when behind closed doors Homelander is a sociopath with a God-complex.

Face of An Angel, Mind of A Demon Characteristics are:
  • They look and appear to be handsome, beautiful, perfect - but are in fact total sociopaths with no moral compass creating an unsettling contrast. 
  • They are the most dangerous, with no limits to what they are capable of. 
  • Usually their real nature is hidden from public knowledge, but they can be upfront about their sinister tendencies.

Audience Surrogate:
Hughie Campbell

It is through Hughie's character  POV that the audience are introduced and experience the world of The Boys. 

Hughie becomes our mouthpiece and moral compass of the story, the audience actively see themselves as him and how may we react if put in the same situation.

Hughie is a normal human being experiencing exceptionally 'not normal' circumstances!

Audience Surrogate Characteristics are:

  • A sympathetic character that audiences relate and empathise with. They see the world you have created through the eyes and actions of this character trope.
  • A character that asks questions, or does acts/behaviours that the audience would do/think/feel.
  • The main POV that the audience experiences.


Image Source

Starlight's narrative story initially seems separate to Hughie's, but quickly we see that their journey becomes interlinked. 

While they both have individual reasons for abhorring the Supes, Starlight rapidly solidifies her role as the show's deuteragonist.

A deuteragonist is the second lead character that has their POV shown/experienced by the audience.

Deuteragonist Characteristics are:
  • A second leading character whose decisions and actions also drive the narrative plot forward.
  • A character trope that can either be with or against the protagonist of the show. 
  • Much of the story will be shown or experienced by the audience from this character's POV/screentime.

Ambiguous Situation: 
Queen Maeve

There's a lot of mystery surrounding this character, what her motives are and her genuine feelings amongst her relationships in the team. 

As second hand to Homelander, it's clear that Queen Maeve operates with the aim of self preservation and keeping herself - and at times, loved ones- safe. 

Homelander clearly threatens her when he announces he doesn't know what he would do or what would happen if she had genuinely fallen for somebody other than him. It's unclear whether he knows or is referring to her civillian ex girlfriend. 

Ambiguous Situation Characteristics are:
  • An intentional trope that is set to play with audience expectations and keep the plot interesting.
  • They do not give up their secrets, desires, motives or actions to the audience or other characters easily. 
  • This character trope is self-aware enough to ponder their circumstances and what is happening around them. 

Being Good Sucks/ Adaptational Villainy:

The Deep

The Deep is another complex character, that while he commits some horrendous abuse of his position within the team - the assault of Starlight - he also endures his own assault at the hands of an over-eager and abusive fangirl. 

While he is considered the team joke, with his position of power diminished to mostly Sea World advertisements and late-night break-in attempts to save dolphins, The Deep is also a sympathetic character at points. 

Both attempts to save animals - the dolphin and the lobster  - end in disastrous consequences. It seems The Deep just sucks at being super! 

Being Good Sucks/ Adaptational Villainy  Characteristics are:
  • Whenever they try to do good deeds it always ends up going wrong.
  • They abuse any position of power they may hold to manipulate their authority and what it may offer them. 
  • May sometimes have sympathetic motivations for what lead them to become this way. 

Smug Snake:
Madelyn Stillwell

This trope seems pretty self explanatory! 

Madelyn is the one in charge of keeping the Supers in check. With Homelander in particular, she has understood using her 'feminine' ways to manipulate him will keep her in control. 

Or so she thinks...

Smug Snake Trope Characteristics:
  • They aspire to be feared, respected and formidable but often turn out to be big bad wannabes!
  • They will do anything to gain control of a situation, often believing themselves to be unbeatable once they are. This assumption is ALWAYS  proved wrong!
  • They are intelligent and calculating but never quite pull of their schemes, resulting  in dire/fatal consequences once their plan unravels. 

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