“The Boys”: Amazon’s Bold Editorial Decision to Trim Starlight’s Controversial Backstory Sparks Debate and Strategic Storytelling Shifts

Erin Moriarty as Starlight Annie in The Boys

The Boys controversy surrounding a particular Starlight storyline proves how the show was smart to change it from the source material. 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. However, with Eric Kripke as showrunner, The Boys has been visceral, socially relevant and unflinchingly bloody in its first two seasons. When show does tone down its source material, there’s usually a good reason, as with The Boys controversy about Starlight’s disturbing introduction into The Seven.

When The Boys season 1 begins, the wholesome small-town hero known as Starlight aka Annie January 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 The Deep exposes himself to Starlight and demand she 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, while still being a horrific storyline.

How Starlight’s Sexual Assault Differs In The Comics

Starlight aka Annie January crossing her arms in The Boys

The Boys controversy surrounding this Starlight moment would have been much worse had it followed the comics more closely. In the comics, the sexual assault also takes place as Starlight is brought into The Seven. However, it features several members of The Seven taking part in the crime, including Homelander. The confrontation between Starlight and her abuser is also different as the comics have Homelander and the others forcing Starlight to perform oral sex on them for her spot on the team while the show adds the further threat of The Deep suggesting he will tell everyone Starlight attacked him with her powers.

In an interview with Screenwriters’ Festival Online, showrunner Eric Kripke actually discussed how troubling this scene was to film. Even though the show made changes to the comic, Kripke still struggled mightily.

I wanted to get it right. I had a lot of conversations with a lot of women, some of which were very painful. And I did my absolute best to get the f– out of the way, and just let them speak, and not try to steer it one way or another. And then, ultimately, kind of, y’know, boil it down to Starlight’s experience, both in that moment, and then in the aftermath of that moment. Then when it came time to loop in Erin, and then Chace… we went through that process all over again. Because the actors actually have to live in and play it. And so, I’ll say this: I’ve never worked so hard or stressed so much about a scene in my life before or since. Because if I got that wrong, it’s not just that it would fail as a scene, it would be hurtful. And I felt that pressure and responsibility all throughout.

Why Changing Starlight’s Story A Bit Was A Good Thing

Homelander and Starlight in The Seven HQ in The Boys

The Boys controversy didn’t sit well with everyone, 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. 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. While she is still scarred, 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 Fresca drinking 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 show is able to add proper consequences to the attack on Starlight, especially as Homelander has never been punished, thus robbing Starlight of her justice.

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.

What The Starlight Actor Said Of The Boys’ Controversial Scene

Starlight using her powers in The Boys season 3

The Boys controversy was clear to everyone involved in the show, including actor Erin Moriarty who plays Starlight aka Annie January. Along with several of the other female writers on the show, Moriarty wanted to see some form of the storyline from the comic adapted for the show. Speaking to Huffington Post, Moriarty said:

“What does align with the TV show we want to make is creating a story of sexual abuse that shines light on women and exactly what they go through, and how they don’t always have to just purely play the victim. They can become stronger people as a result, while also condemning the men who have been perpetuating sexual abuse.”

While Starlight in the comics is able to be her own hero as well, the show’s changes to the storyline allowed her to confront what happened to her in an empowering way while still acknowledging the trauma of the experience, Rather than being ashamed of what she did, Starlight is the one who shares her story with the world and exposes the abuse. The show has continued to show how the experience has affected Starlight, given her more agency within The Seven, guided her decisions as a hero, and still been a painful memory. It is likely this will continue in The Boys season 4.

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