There are some great nerddy TV shows lately that I’ve been enjoying, but I started to notice that many of them had very similar tropes, that were weirdly specific. I just wanted to take a minute and talk about them.
The shows are Obi-Wan Kenobi, Stranger Things, Umbrella Academy, and The Boys, with spoilers for all. I’m going to use trope names and description from TvTropes.org.
CW: Child abuse and murder
Raised in a Lab
“This person spent their formative years in a laboratory, as a test-subject or experiment. Maybe they were created there, maybe they were taken there as infants due to there being something special about them — either way, they’ve got next to no experience with the world outside the lab.”
In Stranger Things, we first meet Eleven after she has escaped her lab, and in the current seasons, we finally meet the other ten (except Eight, who we met last season in Chicago), as well as a few other higher numbers. The problem was of course One, who’s fight with Eleven opened the first gate into the Upside Down.
In The Boys, Homelander had a very similar upbringing, in white walls with boring toys and no parents to speak of. Unfortunately, this leads to a much bigger problem with his development than it did with Eleven, where he has this weird parental psuedo-sexual urge with drinking milk.
Then, in Umbrella Academy, it’s not so much a lab specifically, as they do live in a mansion, but their childhoods were full of testing and experimentation, in much the same way, so it feels very much like a lab, just with wood paneling and area rugs.
Special shoutout to Logan, where X-23, or Laura, is also raised in a lab, for experimentation, where she then gets superhero powers.
Mass Children Murder
When, on May 25th and 27th, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Stranger Things respectively premiered, they opened with scenes of mass child murder. What made this hard to watch was the fact that the Uvalde school shooting was on the 24th.
This is a core theme of The Boys, so it’s not surprising that it continues to be in the newest season, but where Umbrella Academy tended to not mention how the outside world perceives the Umbrella Academy, they make a point to show that the alternate Sparrow Academy is in fact on large billboards, and seem to be much more organized and financially successful. I’m glad they didn’t dig too much into it, because The Boys already makes the Celebrity Superhero such a great part of the lore.
Of course this also tends to happen in other projects, especially Marvel, but they usually just shoehorn in actual products that you can buy on the shelves, whereas this makes them somewhere between an A-List actor and a major athlete.
Seemingly unrelated, you have actor Paul Reiser, who has two completely different roles in Stranger Things and The Boys, but watching him back to back across a couple of weeks was certainly fun and interesting. In Stranger Things he’s the more affectionate doctor who wants to help Eleven and sees that she needs to agree to the experiments, where in The Boys he does coke with Soldier Boy and talks at length about his sexual exploits.