I’m very partial to trashy action movies, including superhero ones. The trouble is that with five out already this year, it’s getting tiresome watching superheroes save the world yet again in CGI-heavy final showdowns. My way to get over the boredom is to add new subversive meanings to each movie.
The most recent one I’ve seen is Suicide Squad. On the surface it is about a group of supposed villains being put together by a covert government programme to fight against super-baddies. It’s mash-up of Dirty Dozen, Con Air and Ghostbusters. In reality, I decided that it was actually about retrograde masculinity and the control of femininity.
Let me explain. There are four primary female characters in the movie: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Amanda Walker (Viola David), June Moone/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) and Katana (Karen Fukuara). Each represent stereotypes of women that men hold.
Harley Quinn was originally the psychiatrist to the Joker. However, he turns her into girlfriend. So off go her glasses and most her clothes. Despite her super villain skills, she still needs to be rescued by him at various points in the movie, mourns his apparent death, and in a fantasy sequence imagines being a 1950s style housewife. She represents the madonna-whore vision of women that Freud would be proud of.
Then there is Amanda Walker the covert programme leader who brings the super villains together. She’s unlikable and emotionless. In fact, she is really the only true villain in the movie as she kills innocents in cold blood – her staffers in a surveillance room. No Suicide Squad member does anything close to that, which makes a mockery of calling them villains or anti-heroes. The lack of empathy this generates for the audience acts almost as a warning to women who decide to take on leadership roles: if you do, you lose your humanity. Of course, she fails anyway and has to pass over the baton of responsibility to a man, Bruce Wayne, who is better equipped to be a leader.
Enchantress, the apparent villain of the movie who takes over the body of June Moone, is the thing all men fear, someone who can mess with their heads. She can seduce, enchant and manipulate to get people do anything she wants. Oh, and did I mention she is skimpily dressed? Meanwhile, all the men are well covered even Killer Croc, who in the comics only wears shorts. The only man immune to her charms is the fire-producing member of the Suicide Squad, Diablo. Why is that? He has lost hope after killing his wife and children. Another common trope in superhero movies – the introduction of a wife to be later killed to elicit sympathy for a man (it happened for Magneto in X-Men: Apocalypse). Enchantress of course is the super villain that has be killed in the finally and she does get zapped.
Finally there is the loyal Katana – the sword-wielding Japanese hero who protects the Black Ops team leader, Red Flag. She’s silent for most the movie. She’s mourning the death of her husband, whose soul is now in her sword, which she fiercely guards. She’s the virtuous woman who fends off the attention of other men (notably boomerang man).
There you have it – my take on Suicide Squad. Let me know if you agree of disagree.