#IStandWithStarlight?: The betrayal of Erin Moriarty by The Boys ‘fans’.
As it turns out, you can dedicate an entire season of a television show to exploring how the toxicity of masculinity crushes and controls women, and seemingly a majority of the audience will still fail to employ the lessons learned — or worse, not have recognised there was a message at all.
The Boys season three was a hit. I was a ‘pandemic baby’ of the show, starting midway through season two, and have been chronically active on Twitter about it ever since. As teasers and trailers started to emerge, a buzz began surrounding the third season that the fandom had never experienced before. Actors and their characters’ names were suddenly trending, viral memes (The Deep to Sweet Child O’ Mine being a personal favourite) exploding left right and centre, and more and more people joining what once felt like a mostly positive and progressive community.
But gaining viewership is both a blessing and a curse, as everything gets amplified. The good, the bad, and the ugly. You naturally find yourself in an echo chamber online due to algorithms, and for me, that meant at the time of airing love was initially louder. For the story, for the cast and crew, and for each other. I genuinely miss being sleep deprived! Staying up until one o’clock in the morning (an unfortunate Brit here) each week, watching the new episode and then running to Twitter to share thoughts and theories with friends that I’ve made through the community. Whilst we might have differed on opinions about performances or plot points, it all came from a place of respect, affection and appreciation.
This general consensus was soon disturbed, however, by overwhelming malice and misogyny which can most notably be found in the comment section of Erin Moriarty’s posts on Instagram.
The women of The Boys being mistreated isn’t new to the fandom. For instance, Aya Cash suffered during season two as some people don’t understand the concept of acting and that she’s not actually a Nazi, nor did she write the narrative herself, and Karen Fukuhara has voiced her Anti-Asian experiences. For Erin Moriarty, a tale as old as time in both the industry and world of fandom repeats itself: unsolicited commentary on her appearance.
Even bullying feels like too lighter term when every post and pose is bombarded with hypercriticism and speculation, when you have to search out the good, or even just the neutral, because the negative is so cruelly overwhelming. Whilst I’m sure her male colleagues have endured unjust criticism, the obsession with her looks and the extent of objectification is unmatched. Antony Starr has openly joked about having Homelander’s muscles built into the suit, but I’ve never seen a comment body shaming him for not having them himself. Actors on the show have been bearded, clean shaven, gained and lost weight and muscle, been shirtless… and not once have they negatively trended for it.
So, why are pictures of her from season one and now being crassly compared, when people naturally change after five years? Why is she being infantilised when she’s a grown woman, entitled to do with her body what she wishes? Why is she not simply allowed to exist?
The harassment feels all the worse given the context of her role as Starlight on the show, a woman silenced and sexualised, treated like a celebrity canvas for others to project onto rather than a human being with her own thoughts and feelings. But Annie is fictional, and Erin is not. The torment doesn’t end for her when the credits start, because there is no switch off. No end or escape. This is why I intentionally put fans in the title of this piece in inverted commas, as I stand by the sentiment that these people truly are not. It baffles me how sexist you have to be to treat someone like that, period, but also after consuming three seasons, twenty-four hours of television, that actively counters the very backward attitude you aim to uphold. Opinions are natural, unstoppable. What’s not, is the decision to air them knowing the only outcome is that you’re going to hurt someone, because what else do you gain apart from sick self-satisfaction?
Erin Moriarty is not a before and after. She’s not asking for it because she chose a profession on screen, or because she has a social media account. She’s not a fictional character, immune to seeing, hearing and feeling hostility. This is a very real young woman who is completely undeserving of the hate she’s being subjected to. A woman known for championing others regardless of gender, who has voiced the importance of mental health for all — including the very people who target her. A woman who should be celebrated for how her friends and co-workers describe her: of sharp wit, unwavering morals, and an abundance of talent. What she looks like should remain an afterthought, a mere footnote as to what makes Erin Moriarty Erin Moriarty.
Imagine the change that could be made if we cared more about the accountability of abusers than alleged augmentation. If people put more effort into combating real cultural issues than critiquing the weight of a woman. As The Boys rightfully grows in popularity, we collectively (those who work on the show and those who support it) need to assert this behaviour is not wanted or welcome at all. That there is no place for discrimination of any kind here. Female fans already feel the consequences of the silence surrounding her sexualisation, as the ripple effect empowers lurking incels in the fanbase to target anyone and everyone, dismissing and degrading us more and more every day.
I’ve rewritten this multiple times, trying to soften my anger because I’m scared of being seen as the ‘riled up woman’ that rants with no real reasoning. Believing what women have been taught for centuries, that allowing ourselves to express emotions freely means we lack credibility.
But fuck that.
In a world of Andrew Tate idealisation, it is more important than ever to call out belittlement and bigotry. Just ignoring it, distancing ourselves so we don’t hear it anymore — it’s not enough. We have to tackle it head on, calling both the people who say it out and those who enable them too. It sounds like a near impossible task, to make such a stance, but I honestly believe we could do it.
After all, since when did hopeful and naïve mean the same thing?