Friday, June 17, 2022

re-watching Seasons 1 & 2 of "The Boys"

[WARNING: spoilers.]

On the second viewing, you learn a lot more than from the first. I have a lot more sympathy for poor Becca, this time around (Butcher's wife, who got raped by Homelander and gave birth to a superpowered son, then got sent to a compound made to look like a neighborhood where she has been trying to raise her son as a normal human; she dies at the end of Season 2, accidentally killed by her own boy). Becca is a pawn in the whole sick game being played by Vought, the über-corporation that manages superheroes and manufactures Compound V, the drug that makes regular humans (usually babies) superpowered.

Compound V itself confuses me, though. On one hand, a single dose is enough to change someone into a superbeing, but on the other hand, heroes like A-Train (this universe's version of The Flash) become addicted to it and take hits of it regularly, while a hero like Homelander—who has his own perverse appetites—seems to have had only the dose that produced him and nothing more. So what gives?

Anyway, rewatching Seasons 1 and 2 has been enlightening, and it's easier to see why Season 3 is unrolling the way it is. The first three episodes of Season 3 all came out at the same time, but the remaining episodes (I assume they're sticking to the eight-episode format used in previous seasons) are all now coming out on Fridays, east-coast time (approximately Saturday morning here in Seoul). Watch "The Boys" if you aren't already doing so, but read my review first to prepare yourself. And make sure you've got a strong stomach: the show is gory.

ADDENDUM: on a linguistic note, I'm paying more attention to the actor who plays Kimiko's brother. He speaks at length in Japanese, and even though I don't speak Japanese myself, I can hear that he's not a native speaker of the language. Wikipedia says the actor is actually Korean-American. This strikes me as classic racist Hollywood, once again relying on the supposed interchangeability of Asians to cast any old Asian in a specific role. They did it in JJ Abrams's Star Trek movies, too, casting the decidedly Komerican John Cho as the Japanese helmsman Hikaru Sulu. (In "Star Trek: Generations," the actress who played Sulu's daughter, Jacqueline Kim, was also Komerican.) Why? Because... who's gonna notice, right? 

I'm actually not as averse to race-switching when it comes to, say, stage plays, but for movies, at least for the purpose of adding some vérité, it's usually better to cast people who can convincingly play such-and-such demographic. These days, it would be offensive to most people to cast, say, a white person in an Asian role, and I kind of agree (or doing vice versa, as in "Cloud Atlas," which I guess detracts from the point I'm trying to make since the Wachowskis obviously thought it wouldn't be offensive). 

Hell, forget about race and concentrate on culture: a lot of Brits and Aussies land roles requiring American accents: North American superheroes are often played by non-Americans: Wolverine (the character is technically Canadian) is played by Aussie Hugh Jackman; Batman has been played by Welshman Christian Bale; Superman is played by Englishman Henry Cavill, etc. It's admirable to see how well these actors actually do American accents; very few are bad at it—I'd single out Eddie Izzard and James Callis as two of the worst—but I'd still rather have Yanks in Yank roles. And the reverse is true, too: I don't need to see Tom Cruise ("Far and Away") or Richard Gere ("The Jackal") trying their hand at Irish accents, as much as I like affecting these accents myself (even though I suck at it).

While I don't find the Brit/Aussie thing offensive, per se, it still rankles that Hollywood can't find competent Amurrican actors to fill American roles. It's worse for the Asian thing: with the bitter history between Korea and Japan, for example, Hollywood's use of, say, Japanese actors to play Koreans (as often happened in "M*A*S*H") is off-putting to both Korean and Japanese viewers. (Of course, here in Korea, you can watch K-dramas where an obviously Russian actor with little grasp of English is supposed to pass for a regular American. So this problem isn't unique to Hollywood. Maybe we should shoot all the casting directors.) 

I guess my larger point is, as I said, that when it comes to movies (and TV), if you have a chance to use talented actors from Demographic X to play Demographic X in your production, use them. Don't reach for cheap substitutes.

My most painful experience was listening to a Chinese actor try to speak Korean in some American show. I remember one line in particular: he was supposed to say shigani-eopseoyo (시간이 없어요, "there's no time"), but it came out sounding like shikini-up-SO-yo (roughly, 시큰이 업소요). Horrific. But I actually felt bad for the Chinese actor, who had been woefully miscast. Stop doing this, Hollywood!

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