“I will always, always go for a dick joke,” says Eric Kripke. “They’re hilarious.”
Kripke should know. As executive producer of Amazon’s satiric, subversive superhero series The Boys and co-creator of its emotionally resonant spinoff, Gen V, Kripke has made certain that penises factor in — often in larger-than-life, explosive ways.
At the start of Gen V, for instance, which is set on the campus of the Godolkin University School of Crimefighting, Emma (the scene-stealing Lizzie Broadway), who has the power to shrink herself, hooks up with a fellow student, and, in miniaturized size, scrambles around his dick as if scaling a rock climbing wall.
The scene is hilariously jaw-dropping, not least because the member itself is alarmingly realistic.
“We built a six-foot tall, anatomically correct penis,” says Kripke’s fellow executive producer and showrunner Michele Fazekas. “What I learned coming into this world [of Gen V] — and I’m a gay woman — is that ‘Oh, straight dudes love penises.’ Love talking about them, seeing them. So it’s not just a gay man thing. All dudes fucking love dicks. Love them.”
Gen V is set within the confines of The Boys universe, yet embarks on a decidedly different tonal path, one fraught with emotion and self-discovery. Its characters not only cope with superpowers that are literally affixed to self-harm disorders, such as bulimia and cutting, but must also thwart a sinister, secret program that threatens their existence.
The show has many of the same thrilling, over-the-top qualities of The Boys, especially in its gripping final episode, but is far more relatable and profound in its exploration of human fragility.
“Superpowers in The Boys are a metaphor but for really broad issues like celebrity and fascism,” says Kripke, who also created the popular series Supernatural. “One way we knew we could set Gen V apart would be to have the powers be metaphors for issues that young people are really going through. Hard-hitting issues, dealt with honestly, that a regular drama could never get away with, or would be scared to.
“I think that’s why Michele and I love working in the genre so much, because you can tell stories about cutting, and eating disorders, and gender fluidity, and do it in a way that is Trojan-horsed inside the trappings of a funny, gross action show. That’s always been the goal of The Boys and it’s nice that we can do a version of that on Gen V.”
Kripke is “gratified by people saying, ‘I can relate to this show in a way I could never relate to The Boys.’ That’s music to my ears, because I want this show to stand on its own. It’s just a more contained show. The Boys is huge. It’s like, you’re dealing with the President of the United States and the fate of the country, and sometimes it’s hard to get your head around all that, even for the writers. There are lower stakes in the Gen V world — but I say that in the best possible way: you can then focus on character even that much more.”
Gen V includes a non-binary character named Jordan (magnificently portrayed by London Thor and Derek Luh), who, throughout the eight-episode series, grapples with their gender duality as well as expectations from others as to how they should predominantly present — male or female.
“When I came onto the show and I read that character in the pilot script, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s the secret weapon of the show. I’ve never seen it before,'” says Fazekas. “We are very, very intentional about that character. We’re intentional about all of our characters, but there was a risk of that character offending people in all the wrong ways.”
She continues: “What I love about The Boys — and what I loved about it before I was even working in this universe — is that they don’t give a fuck. They’re supposed to be offending you. If they’re not offending somebody, they’re doing it wrong. Offensive is fine. But you don’t want to be hurtful and you don’t want to be harmful.”
“When we were writing the pilot of The Boys, we had a lot of conversations about how do we walk this line without being hateful?” adds Kripke.
“And Seth Rogen, one of the executive producers, said something to me that has become one of the mantras of both shows. He said, ‘You just have to let them know that you have a big heart and it’s in the right place. And once you let the audience know that, you really can get away with quite a lot.’
“So we always make a point that everyone understands where we stand. I have a rule on The Boys that if you’re going to punch, punch as hard as you want. But punch up, don’t punch down. So you can be insane, but just do what comedy is supposed to do and take down people in power. Don’t take down people who don’t have power.”
All episodes of Gen V — and the first three seasons of The Boys — are currently streaming on Prime Video. Visit www.amazon.com.
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