On “The Boys,” Amazon Prime’s darkly comedic superhero drama, Antony Starr plays the evil Homelander, an avatar of American ultranationalism whose cruelty is only matched by his popularity among the public. To his fans, he is the perfect hero, but behind closed doors, he’s a cauldron of unequaled madness, nursing deep-seated insecurities that he uses to excuse his sociopathic behavior. But perhaps his most off-putting quality is his milk fetish, a bit of characterization that Starr explained is a manifestation of Homelander’s arrested development.
Homelander’s weird milk fetish shows up early in the series — during Season 1, in fact, when we see him quiver with pleasure as he samples some of Vought executive Madelyn Stillwell’s (Elisabeth Shue) breast milk. Of course, Homelander also has a bizarre sexual relationship with Stillwell that involves mommy play, making the psychological root of his obsession with her milk all too clear. Homelander, who is essentially a mega-powerful man-baby, is still psychologically stuck in a form of childhood.
As Starr explained at San Diego Comic-Con in 2020, “This guy is desperately, painfully lonely, and desperate for connection. And, of course, a big part of that was the lovely Elisabeth Shue-slash-Stillwell. But she wasn’t willing to let Homelander expand in Season 1 and fulfill what he believed he was capable of — his ‘mission,’ so to speak. So he dealt with his oedipal complex at the end of Season 1 … I guess there’s nothing more internal than milk as a way to connect dots between Season 1 and 2 and bring Stillwell back into his world a little bit. He finds traces of Stillwell and reconnects that way. And that is a moment of pure connection between Homelander and Stillwell.”
Antony Starr says Homelander is emotionally weak
As Homelander’s ongoing milk fetish on “The Boys” symbolizes, Homelander is an emotional mess, the strongest man on the planet, yet still psychologically repressed into childhood. According to Antony Starr, who plays the maniacal supe, many of Homelander’s actions stem from his emotional ineptitude. “That’s the duality of the character.” Starr said. “These guys have really done a great job playing both sides of that. The strongest man on the show … is the weakest, emotionally, on the show, in my opinion.”
Expressing that duality through Homelander’s lust for Madelyn Stillwell’s breast milk (and, after her death, other types of milk as well) is not only an effective visual metaphor, it’s right on brand for a show that pushes the boundaries of good taste with every new season. In fact, on the list of disturbing things that have happened on “The Boys,” Homelander’s taste for milk ranks as relatively tame. In a world dominated by family-friendly superhero fare like that produced by Disney’s MCU, “The Boys” stands out through its inversion of the genre’s tropes. It is a menagerie of the grotesque, where the shocking content isn’t simply there to offend, but to drive home the show’s message.
Indeed, every member of The Seven has a weakness, some physical, others psychological. Homelander’s is his craving for approval and his lack of any parental figures. No wonder he latches on to Stillwell both figuratively and literally; she’s the closest thing he’s ever had to a mother.