Speaker: Dakota Pinheiro
Respondent: sarah currie
In his 2009 essay, published on the eve of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s cultural ascendance, Greg Smith describes superheroes as “passive” agents, noting that, “without some other person or external crisis to precipitate the drama, the superhero would remain on call indefinitely” (131). This positioning of the superhero as reactive and as deferential to traditional forms of authority, James Mulder argues, leave superheroes exposed to the “living precarity of this historical present” (1049) amidst Umberto Eco’s “immobile present” (Smith 133). As a satire that combines the genre conventions of contemporary superhero fantasy with an evisceration of corporate power and market politics, Eric Kripke’s The Boys illustrates the governing role that capitalist practices occupy in super-heroic and super-oppressive activity. Depicting “supes” as near-invincible demigods that are above the law and are protected by billions of dollars worth of PR management on the one hand and as precarious labourers in competition with one another in a rigged corporate meritocracy on the other, The Boys hyperbolizes the cascading harms of unfair labour practices under late-stage capitalism. This presentation investigates representations of superhero labour precarity and injustice in Amazon Prime’s superhero satire series The Boys to lay bare the authoritarian ideation of contemporary American labour discourse, and to illustrate the radical intersectional labour advocacies enclosed in the series’ co-option of the superhero genre.
Kripke, Eric, creator. The Boys. Amazon Prime Video, 2019.
Mulder, James. "Believe It or Not, This is Power": Embodied Crisis and the Superhero on Film." The Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 50, no. 5, 2017, pp. 1047-1064.
Smith, Greg M. "The Superhero as Labor: The Corporate Secret Identity." The Contemporary Comic Book Superhero, edited by Angela Ndalianis, Routledge 2009, pp. 126-43.
Dakota Pinheiro (he/him) is a PhD candidate in the Department of English and Literature. This is his first time presenting his research as a PRES lecture. His dissertation project critically examines representations of labour protests and solidarities in contemporary American literature. Dakota also serves as an editor at First Person Scholar, a Sessional Lecturer with the Department of English, and as an Educational Developer at Waterloo’s Centre for Teaching Excellence.
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