The Boys season 1 gradually revealed Homelander’s true origins: that he was raised in a laboratory at Vought by scientists like Dr. Jonah Vogelbaum. The public, however, is completely unaware of this truth; in fact, Homelander is believed to have lived a normal, all-American childhood before he became the leader of the Seven. Vought’s motivation for this deception is clear — it’s better for marketing — but it’s less obvious why Homelander himself so willingly plays along with the lie.
Homelander is arguably the most complicated character on the Amazon Prime show; he’s known publicly as a great hero, yet has committed some of the most atrocious acts seen on the series. Homelander is the most powerful Supe in The Boys, making his lack of morality all the more threatening. Yet, there is something undeniably sad about him, making the character oddly sympathetic while also being despicable.
In The Boys season 1, episode 7 “The Self-Preservation Society,” viewers get a glimpse of Homelander’s past trauma, as well as the lengths to which Vought fabricates his history for the sake of furthering their corporate agenda. In the episode, Homelander films a behind-the-scenes documentary about his childhood — all a carefully-curated facade by Vought — but is visibly upset when he discovers a real artifact from his past: his baby blanket. Stillwell manipulates Homelander, who is understandably upset by the situation, by offering him the affection he so desperately craves while telling him he needs to do the shoot “to show how down-to-Earth and ready to serve” he is. The scene develops the toxic relationship between Homelander and Stillwell in The Boys, but it all subtly reminds viewers how unimportant Homelander’s needs are to Vought. This is further enforced by the later reveal that he was raised in an emotionally void underground laboratory — the complete opposite of the upbringing he describes to the documentary crew.
Vought carefully constructed Homelander’s public image: he is the embodiment of American values, and as such, his fake childhood is a Smallville-like rural setting, complete with an American flag and baseball trophies. Vought greatly profits off of Homelander being their Superman, not just for merchandise and a movie franchise, but as a mercenary force they can rent out. The government contracts Vought wants so desperately is just the next step in a carefully constructed business plan — one that depends on Homelander coming across as a paragon of American values. Vought created Homelander to be a tool, and therefore have no qualms about using him as such.
Homelander has little choice but to go along with Vought’s PR plans. The Supe’s greatest weakness is his dependence on public opinion for a sense of validation; as shown in season 2, despite being almost godlike in terms of power, he is easily wounded emotionally by perceived rejection. On a deeper level, though, it’s possible that Homelander wants to perpetuate the myth of his “normal” upbringing — not just because it’s good for his image, but also because he is so deeply ashamed of the truth. His past is painful for him to face: that’s why he reacts so poorly to seeing his baby blanket, and why he has such a complicated relationship with Dr. Vogelbaum (made worse by the scientist hiding Ryan’s existence). Given the scientist’s shocking death toward the end of The Boys season 2, Homelander will likely have to face his past further in the next installment.