Suicide squad

The Harley Quinn Problem

That brings us to the elephant in the room and an issue that both Jen Yamato at The Daily Beast and Alison Willmore at Buzzfeed have both eloquently written about. It’s hard to ignore the sexist and misogynist undertones of Suicide Squad.

Harley Quinn is the central issue here and it goes beyond her ridiculous outfit with those ridiculous shorts. Perhaps the biggest mistake Suicide Squad makes is that it chooses to frame that relationship between the Joker and Harley as a love story, never pausing to acknowledge that she is a victim of an abuser and a monster. This is especially strange because Harley’s longevity as a character, the reason she has become so popular in recent years, is due to her rejecting “Mistah J” and becoming her own woman. Harley Quinn isn’t beloved because she’s the Joker’s girlfriend – she’s beloved because she escapes from him. She defeats her abuser.

So the fact that Suicide Squad concludes with the Joker triumphantly breaking her out of prison is grotesque. The fact that her torture at his hands is depicted as the act of a devoted lover is unpleasant in all of the wrong ways. It’s a fucked-up dynamic by design, but the film’s refusal to give Harley growth, to let her recognize this, is cowardly at best and loathsome at worst. It fails to understand the chief appeal of the character, reducing her to a brainwashed victim from beginning to end. Margot Robbie, and Harley Quinn, deserve better than this.

But Harley is the tip of the iceberg here. The sexist jabs, the ugly moments, pile up quickly. Taken individually, they are forgivable, the words and actions of bad people living in an ugly world. By the time Slipknot is introduced punching a woman in the face for no apparent reason, things have bubbled over into deeply uncomfortable territory. There has simply been too much violence toward women, too many derogatory comments, and too much generally sexist nastiness to ignore. If nothing else, Suicide Squad has me primed for that Wonder Woman movie – something has to wash this taste out of my brain.

Suicide Squad header

The State of the DC Extended Universe

So here we are, three movies into the DC Extended Universe and no one appears to be steering the ship. Rather than feel like a course correction from the awful (but far more dedicated to its weirdo ideas) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad is a bad movie in completely different ways. Batman v Superman felt like the wrong artist at the helm of the wrong ship. Suicide Squad feels like a mutiny.

By my very nature, I want to love these movies. I say that as someone who still likes Man of Steel quite a bit. I say that as someone who reads superhero comics every week and loves these characters. I want these movies to be good. Nothing would make me happier than to see Harley Quinn and Deadshot and Killer Croc on screen in movies that I enjoy. I don’t buy the nonsense being spouted from the dark corners of DC fandom, where anyone who speaks ill of these movies is a hater. I’m not a hater – I’m a lover, pure and simple. I love these characters and the DC universe too much to settle for movies like this.

And because of that, I look ahead to Wonder Woman and want it to be good. I can’t help but have faith in Justice League. I want Warner Bros. to get their act together. I eagerly await the day when I can take a positive deep dive on a movie from the DCEU. Nothing would make me happier.

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