An Actual Mess: Some Thoughts on ‘Suicide Squad’

I don’t know how DC does it, but somehow I can go into a movie not expecting anything and still leave disappointed.

Let’s get one thing straight off the bat: I do actually want DC Comics to be better than Marvel. While Marvel has had better luck translating their characters to screen in recent years and while I would marry Captain America, I spent much more of my time as a comic book nerd buying DC than Marvel. In general, I like DC’s characters better, and they do a much less clumsy job with legacy characters (at least, when they let the characters remain in the hero role). My biggest issue with DC is not that I hate them, but I genuinely want them to do better. Even though they’ve slighted my favorite character, I still want them to stop tripping over their own shoelaces.

And I think that’s a common feeling towards DC in general: fans begging them to stop sabotaging themselves while Dan DiDio rubs his chin thoughtfully before saying, “No, I like when our fans are flabbergasted by the decisions we make.”

Of course, Warner Brothers is a little different, but they’re a movie studio that should know better by now when it comes to making movies that people will actually enjoy and be satisfied. They’ve been around forever, so why do they keep producing sub-par superhero movies? Were we doomed with “Superman III?”

“Suicide Squad,” to repeat what others have said, kind of sounds like a Hot Topic wet dream: it’s a movie about villains being the good guys. Its soundtrack is characterized by familiar and exciting songs rather than primarily instrumental tracks. It has Harley Quinn and the Joker, who’ve both been mainstays of the alt-fashion culture. We get characters who are unapologetically bad, and that should be fun. So what went wrong?

A lot of my friends on Facebook have looked at the antagonist as being a major issue, and I have to agree with that one. Cara Delevingne isn’t a particularly engaging actress, and as June Moon (like, the human), the extent of her dialogue appears to be crying and saying, “I can’t do this!” As the Enchantress, she relies on her brother to beat people up while she…gyrates? I guess? It’s a white woman inhabited by a being some unspecified native people worshipped once upon a time, and it’s honestly boring. She’s supposed to be a major threat, but the damage she does isn’t felt by individuals in the movie on the whole.

Even judging by the weak antagonist, “Suicide Squad” has major issues with how it treats women. To go beyond June Moon, we can and should look at Katana. She’s severely underused in a movie that’s ultimately more about Deadshot than any bigger group. We have her talking to her husband’s soul, but we aren’t made to witness his death like we’re made to watch a guard’s wife being held hostage by the Joker.

Which I guess leads us to Harley. The film introduces us to her with the famous Leslie Gore song, but at no point is it actually true in reference to Harley. She’s constantly being told what to do and doesn’t have any agency. DC has sometimes tried to make up for her origin and the fact that she’s literally the victim of abuse, but we don’t see that here. Even though we get flashbacks, they function more to show her in pain–never to allow her to refuse the Joker. In the end, she’s practically giftwrapped for him, utterly unable to escape as he storms the prison to take her.

“But Amanda Waller!” voicers of dissent moght cry. “She’s a strong female character!” Except media in general has issues with black women, and Viola Davis (powerful in her performance as she generally is) is an older black woman. I can’t speak to specifics of racism because I really don’t have that authority, but Amanda Waller is specifically de-sexualized. She’s not an object, but she’s also one of the few women who aren’t sexually available.

There’s a lot of casual violence against women too in terms of background characters  (the scene where Slipknot punches a woman for “having a mouth on her” spoke volumes) that made me uncomfortable. I’m pretty used to violence, especially against women, but this was bad.

Other thoughts:

  • The Joker is less like Batman’s greatest foe and more like that potential rapist you sometimes see on public transportation. You know, the guy who makes you want to take a shower.
  • Will Smith was good, but some of the lines felt very contrived.
  • Is Hawkman not a thing?
  • That moment between Bats and Harley was disgusting and made zero sense. Who decided that was in character?

I don’t usually have anything to say about audiences (why should I?) when it comes to talking about movies, but I kind of feel like there’s a point in it here, so I will. When I came in, there was a guy in front of me with a faux-hawk and a trenchcoat starring the Joker on the back of it, and let’s not pretend like nerds don’t get hot over Harley Quinn. Bruce Timm and Paul Dini created her, she was designed to be sexy, and in the comics she wears a corset.

As I was leaving, I saw a girl who had to be around 14 years old wearing a “Daddy’s Lil Monster” shirt. The girls who like and identify with Harley aren’t usually adults; they’re young (spoiler: teenage girls love superheroes) and vulnerable. I watched her leave, thought about the dissonance between the men in the theater and the girls, and wondered what kind of message a movie like “Suicide Squad” sends. Maybe they should have gone with the higher rating after all.

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Author: jillboger

Part time writer. Editor-in-Chief for the Bridge volume 13, former EIC for The Odyssey at BSU. My glasses protect my secret identity.

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