America’s ‘Stormfront’ Problem
by: Tanya Cook
**Spoiler Alert: This post discusses Season 2 of The Boys and contains spoilers.**
I admit it. At first, I really liked The Boys’s Season 2 new main character Stormfront. Here was a heroine who spoke truth to corporate power, was social media savvy, had a bad ass haircut, and seemed like she was gonna take Homelander down a notch or two. Like Wee Hugie, the audience’s non-supe stand in who was originally a fan of The Seven, I should have known that things that look too good to be true probably are.
Later in the season, we learn that Stormfront is not the feminist, anti-establishment hero we take her for. She is, in fact, a white supremacist and a literal Nazi. Stormfront (formerly known as Liberty) is actually over 100 years old, was Frederick Vought’s wife, and the first successful supe created with Compound V.
From the first episode in Season 1, The Boys is rife with socio-political commentary; a cautionary tale of corporate power and critique of celebrity culture. I admit I was not a huge fan of Season 1 — a little too heavy on the gratuitous and sexualized violence for me. But the introduction of Stormfront as sympathetic, and then the shocking reveal of her true identity, was brilliantly written and brilliantly portrayed by Aya Cash. For me, Stormfront’s story this season took the implicit commentary in a new and interesting direction. Showrunner Eric Kripke confirmed that including Stormfront this season was meant to allow the show a chance to grapple with white supremacy and white nationalism on the rise in a post-Trump America. I also think, however, that by gender bending the Stormfront character, Season 2 of The Boys adds an additional feminist critique of women who uphold and help sustain white supremacy. Stormfront represents the white women who have (overtly and covertly) supported, upheld, and benefitted from white supremacy and patriarchy.
But you don’t have to be a super-powered, sort of immortal, literal Nazi to be complicit (or actively participate) in systems of racialized oppression. Calling the police and explicitly threatening to tell the 911 operator a “black man” is threatening you because he asked you to observe park rules, is one terrible example of a white woman trying to use racism to her advantage. When Amy Cooper made that call earlier this year, she weaponized racism against Christian Cooper (no relation). She drew on the twin specters of the hyper-sexualized and aggressive black man, and the virtuous, innocent white woman. These horrific stereotypes have haunted our nation since the first enslaved Africans were brought to the Americas in 1619 and have been used to justify lynchings, cruel and unusual punishment in our criminal justice system, and discriminatory imposition of the death penalty for black defendants.
Like Stormfront, white supremacists have grown both more media savvy and bolder in Trump’s America. It was not until 2019 that Facebook officially banned white supremacy groups — after pressure from Civil Right organizations. Since at least the Nixon administration, politicians have spoken in coded language about race in order to benefit from stirring up racial tensions between white and black Americans. Like Stormfront, politicians rely on fanning the flames of fear in order to manipulate public opinion; the war on terror has been a major subtextual theme in The Boys. Unfortunately, leading up to the 2020 election, misinformation (fake news) spread via social media at greater rates than 2016. A 2018 study found that false stories were 70% more likely to be retweeted than accurate ones; and this difference could not be attributed to notorious twitter ‘bots.’ This interactive resource explains some of why social media is rife with this spread of misinformation and why it’s so hard to control.
“We are in a war for the culture. The other races are grinding us down and taking what is rightfully ours, but we can fight back. With an army of supermen, millions strong. Because that is Vought’s true destiny. And you will be the man who will lead us.”— Stormfront to Homelander
Stormfront successfully shifts attention away from Homelander’s carelessness that results in civilian deaths by shifting the public conversation to focus on a bigger threat — terrorism. The opening of episode 9 “Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker,” is an astute portrayal of the dangers of radicalization via social media. Whipped into a fervor by Stormfront’s warnings about super terrorists, a Stormfront fanboy tragically murders a convenience store clerk (intentionally depicted as an immigrant man of color) who he mistakes for a super terrorist.
In the real world, when Donald Trump spoke about protecting the suburbs and claiming he polled well with suburban women, he was using racially coded language. When Amy Coney Barret was nominated to the Supreme Court despite having a paucity of experience relative to previous justices, as a white woman, she benefited from political allegiances with Trump. Feminists call this a patriarchal bargain — women who conform to patriarchal norms in order to benefit from their compliance; they ultimately end up supporting the very system that oppresses them in the first place. *cough, cough* *Phylis Schlafly* *cough* This may explain why Stormfront deliberately allies with Homelander rather than try to displace him.
According to a survey over 15,000 voters, 55% of white women voted for Trump. Exit polls are not without issues, however. Many have expressed shock that this is an increase over the reported 53% of white women who voted for Trump in 2016. (Again, these two numbers 53 versus 55% are exit poll data — and given the problems with exit polling, the difference here may not be statistically significant. For more discussion on patterns of voting by gender check out this article.) We will have to wait for post-election analysis to make final conclusions regarding the demographics of who voted and how they voted in this election; and we know that variables like level of education, party affiliation, and where an individual lives (rural, urban, suburban, etc.) also affect voting patterns, creating notable divides within race-gender categories like “white women.”
In The Boys, as in our world, white supremacy and the patriarchy are intertwined systems of oppression that white women help manufacture and benefit from, for the privilege of not occupying the lowest rung on society’s ladder. White voters still represent 65% of the electorate. To engage in the feminist, anti-racist work this country needs, white women need to be part of the solution in dismantling systems of oppression.
White women of America — don’t be Stormfront.