Starlight’s first day in The Seven leads to a horrific ordeal in The Boys, but the Amazon adaptation makes a key change to the comics for the better.
Amazon’s adaptation of The Boys makes a vital and important improvement to the original comic book, lending Starlight’s story far better to TV. When a live-action version of Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys was first announced, some fans were understandably concerned that Amazon’s series would shy away from the near-the-knuckle humor, gross-out violence and controversial themes that made the comic famous. They needn’t have been worried. With Eric Kripke as showrunner, The Boys has been visceral, socially relevant and unflinchingly bloody in its first two seasons. And where The Boys does tone down its source material, there’s usually a good reason – Starlight’s origins in The Seven, for example.
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When The Boys season 1 begins, the wholesome small-town hero known as Starlight (Annie January to her mom) is promoted to the big leagues with a spot in Vought’s top team. Shown around Seven HQ by new colleague The Deep, everything is going well until Starlight’s companion drops his trousers and forces the newcomer to perform oral sex on him, or else risk losing her place in The Seven. This traumatic event plays out very differently in the comic books, where Starlight finds herself in the same situation, but with Homelander instead. Also unlike the TV show, the pair are soon joined by Black Noir and A-Train, who join in the abuse.
Eric Kripke has spoken of sleepless nights deliberating how to adapt Starlight’s story in The Boys. But as dark as the ordeal might be, it’s an important step on Starlight’s journey, while also defining her immediately as the only true hero in The Seven, who are otherwise lacking a moral compass. To adapt the assault verbatim from the comic books, however, would’ve been several steps too far. Depicting sexual assault in fiction is a sensitive endeavor, and compounding Starlight’s suffering with two extra members of The Seven would veer sharply into gratuitous territory – not dissimilar to Sansa Stark’s infamous rape scene in Game of Thrones. Being ganged up on would add nothing to Annie’s arc that isn’t already present through her scene with The Deep, offering cheap shock value without substance.
Perhaps the most important benefit of The Boys‘ Starlight change comes in the aftermath of the incident. In another detour from the source material, Starlight speaks out publicly, shaming The Deep and receiving support for her bravery. The Boys turns Starlight’s story into one of reclaiming control and finding strength during times of trauma. Furthermore, The Deep is punished for his actions. After Starlight’s revelation, Deep loses his position in The Seven and becomes a shell of his former self, pathetically relying on a cult to stay relevant. Deep supposedly embarks on a journey of self-discovery, but upon expressing this to Starlight, he’s quickly and brutally shut down, with Annie (correctly) accusing her attacker of being more concerned with rejoining The Seven than genuinely making amends. Not only does this demonstrate Starlight’s evolution, but The Boys ensures Deep’s crimes are not forgotten. Had the Amazon TV series followed the comics, this fall from grace wouldn’t have been anywhere near so effective, as three separate characters would be sharing the punishment. By focusing on a single assailant, The Boys is able to add proper consequences to the attack on Starlight.
Finally, Starlight’s story change plays into the more diverse, nuanced Seven characters in Amazon’s The Boys. Compared to the comic books, the likes of A-Train and Homelander have exponentially more layers to their flaws, depravities and motivations. Had they been involved in sexually assaulting Starlight alongside the Deep, however, that leaves three major characters under the same umbrella. Because The Deep alone is responsible, The Boys can take A-Train, Homelander and Black Noir in their own directions, creating a richer narrative and a broader range of characters, while doing justice to Starlight far better than the comics.
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