Feminist Flicks

Suicide Squad (2016)

Normal Is a Setting On the Dryer

The members of the Suicide Squad. Image from IMDB.

As Heathens by twenty one pilots played and the credits for Suicide Squad began, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was elated that the movie was finally over. Personally, I had been excited for Suicide Squad since it was announced. I thought Jared Leto was going to provide a new perspective on the Joker that would hopefully be comparable to Heath Ledger’s performance in The Dark Knight. It didn’t. Instead, we got a racist and sexist film that has a soundtrack with more songs than entirely necessary. To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

It might be a bit generous to that Suicide Squad had a plot, it was more just Will Smith and Margo Robbie walking around annoyingly while being flanked by caricatures. But nonetheless, Suicide Squad is about Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembling a team of criminals to go on a secret mission that will most likely kill them, hence the name. The two emerging “leaders” of the team are Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). While the Squad is going on this mission, the Joker (Jared Leto) is supposed to be causing mayhem, but if anything he is a mild annoyance.

Not only is the movie bad on a story telling level, it is also racist and sexist. Two members of the Suicide Squad, Katana and El Diablo are just stereotypes personified. I mean, look at those names. Katana does little other than talk to her sword throughout the movie that is explained as having her husband’s soul trapped within it and El Diablo’s background is just that he is a former gangster who killed his entire family with his flame powers. There’s no growth or storyline for either of them. They just exist. As the most inclusive superhero movie ever, Suicide Squad doesn’t actually help the cause for diversity, it just exploits it.

What about the other women? Well, when they aren’t getting hit by men or pushed into vats of acid by men or being call whores by men or being hyper sexualized by men, there are some strong female characters. Sorry, correction, there is one strong female character. Amanda Waller.

Harley Quinn has the potential to be a great character when used correctly. She is a domestic violence survivor who stands up to her abuser and protects women in the comics, but in Suicide Squad her relationship with the Joker has been reduced to being branded as #relationshipgoals. It’s hard to get behind any movie that thinks that true love involves crashing helicopters and toxic sludge. As the first appearance of Harley Quinn in the DC Cinematic Universe maybe there’s some hope that Harley’s characterization will get better through the follow up films, but that’s putting a lot of faith in the writers who had her unironically say “Normal is a setting on the dryer”.

Cara Delevingne’s character, June Moone (which is an awful name), is quite possibly the woman that is most screwed over in the entire film. Despite the fact that she is possessed by an ancient entity, her boyfriend, Rick, is depicted as the victim. Just another example of a man’s feeling being more important than a woman’s.

As for the Bechdel Test, Suicide Squad barely passes. Despite having quite a few named female characters, any conversations between them are brief. But there is at least one conversation between Harley and Amanda that isn’t about a man so it gets a checkmark on all three criteria. It doesn’t, however, pass the Mako Mori Test. The plots all revolve around men. Harley’s main goal is to be reunited with her abuser, Katana is too preoccupied with her husband’s soul that’s contained within her sword to do anything of value, and June Moone’s possession is shown from her boyfriend’s perspective.

If you don’t have to see Suicide Squad, you shouldn’t. And if you are being forced to watch it, I truly feel your pain. If the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind procedure existed, I would permanently erase Suicide Squad from my memory.