Over the past hundred or so years, fascism has become a favorite subject for storytellers. It’s become a cautionary tale that has been both mocked and warned about for decades. Stories about fascism can take many different forms. But perhaps the most compelling stories about the topic chronicle its rise in society. This is where the crossroads of storytelling and political science meet. Sometimes fascism can rise as a by-product of war. Other times it can rise from a tide of nationalism. And, of course, it could appear as a combination of both. But it is when these two concepts are separated and focused on as the core of the story that it becomes a very telling work of art.
One story about showcasing fascism through war is Star Wars — the Prequel Trilogy specifically. In those films, there wasn’t a strong nationalistic sense. But war was at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Sheev Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) orchestrated a situation where people were so fearful of war they would allow fascism to take hold simply because they were afraid of losing. This is in contrast to The Boys, which takes the nationalism approach to fascism. Homelander (Antony Starr) was always viewed as a ticking time bomb that could go off at any moment and reveal to the world who he truly was. But since his egomaniacal behavior was revealed slowly over time, his supporters gradually became comfortable with who he was as their destined fascist leader.
Very few people would say that Star Wars and The Boys are alike. One is a raunchy superhero drama while the other is an all-ages sci-fi adventure. But their ability to use the rise of fascism as a storytelling device links them. And yet, they take two different approaches to the subject that are both equally important. Storytellers have a lot to say about fascism in our society, whether it be in the past, present, or future. And it’s very telling to look past the window dressing of a story and deconstruct it for the allegory it is.
The Boys is streaming now on Amazon Prime.