This is a little outside of my norm; but I felt it was important.
Warning: MANY SPOILERS
Let’s talk about Suicide Squad the movie for a moment. I will give you if you did not like the movie based on the filming, edition, or direction; however I want to get one thing straight: This movie was a fantastic representation of Feminism and what it stands for. It is so in the way that it revamped Harley and Joker’s relationship, allows women to be themselves without fear of objectification, gives a wide range of roles to both men and women, and finally puts men and women on an equal footing when fighting. If you can suspend yourself a bit and allow the movie to be a universe on and of itself this movie, and its franchise that could come out of it, has the possibility to help the idea of equal worth for all.
Feminism is the idea that we are working for equal worth between all peoples. It focuses on women and women’s rights mostly feeding off the idea that when women and men are seen as equals then all the world can be pulled up by that. It has since expanded to include all gender identifications – however for this article I will focus on the idea of gender roles of men and women.
Joker and Harley Quinn’s New Relationship
For anyone whom is well versed in comic book, or basic pop culture, they are aware that the basic root of the relationship between Joker and Harley Quinn is often something less desirable. Harley Quinn was introduced during the Batman Cartoon in 1992 as a comic relief. She was supposed to be a one off charter whom was devoted to the Joker even though he abused her and was unstable. However after fans fell in love with her, she quickly became a staple for the DCU; and is further strengthened and empowered in the new Suicide Squad take of her character.
Suicide Squad took a different direction with the relationship between Joker and Harley, by making it not based in abuse and neglect, but rather based in mutual love and crazy. We see this idea introduced when Amanda Waller introduces Quinn. We first see Quinn while the song “You Don’t Own Me” is playing – which is a song about a woman not putting up with a controlling or abusive relationship – leading us to understand that the new relationship between Harley and Joker is no longer going to have the abusive element. Further we later see that Joker not only defends, truly loves Harley, but also goes to extreme lengths to recover her from prison.
While Waller is introducing Harley Quinn she makes an off handed comment saying, “They became the King and Queen of Gotham and God help you if you disrespected the Queen”. The movie then cuts to a flash back scene where Joker is meeting with an associate whom calls Harley a “Bad Bitch”. At the word Bitch Joker flinches and entraps this man ending in his death. Clearly showing that he stands not only for the disrespect of Harley, but also showing the audience someone whom will stand up against sexist comments made towards woman, particularly the love of his life. Later this idea is pushed even more, when the warden of the prison hands a phone to Quinn, saying “This is a present from Mr. J” and she responds with “you are so screwed”. We know that she has been manipulating his weakness of being a horn ball to get what she wants; and because he has been treating her as a sex symbol she knows that the Joker will not be happy. It is also implied that it is not because she could not or would not deal with him on her own; but rather because of her incarceration she can not, so Joker will happily pick up the pieces where she could not.
Further on in the movie we see that there relationship has changed as Joker not only laments that Harley is gone; but spends the whole movie working on finding and getting her back. This includes finding and attempting to recue her twice while the city is under attack and ending with him grabbing her out of prison. This is completely unexpected not only because the trailers to this movie lead us to believe that this was the movie where “Harley will go after and beat the crap out of Joker”; but also because Joker was known for leaving, beating, and over all not caring for Harley in the comics or in other incarnations of their relationship. Even to go so far as in one comic to say that Harley left for 9 months to give birth and Joker did not even notice, nor does he know they have a child. In the new Suicide Squad movie not only is he acutely aware that she is not there; but he even diverts all his energy to finding and rescuing her.
Not to mention Harley never plays a victim. Yes she is in a place where she needs assistance to escape; but she is not ever looking at her situation as hopeless, and tries to break out a number of times taking a number of guards with her. It is not that she is unwilling or unable to take out the guards that are man handling her; but she is fighting an up hill battle where she is held. We are given a very strong female character whom “sleeps when she wants, where she wants, and with whom she wants” regardless of what she is told. She is a truly strong bad ass woman. This idea of strength is reinforced because Harley is no longer looked at as a victim of abuse. By taking the abuse out of their relationship the DCU left it open for Harley to truly be a strong female in their universe 100% even as a stand alone, and that is something that even in the ‘bad guy’ world is needed.
It can be argued that during the flash back scenes of when Joker first gets out of Arkham that he abuses her. However I beg to differ. Yes when she is acting as his therapist he manipulates her love for him to get out; however when he first starts to give her electroshock, he pauses when she first calls him “Mr. J”. Leading the audience to think he was not in love with her yet. Then when he asks her if she will ‘live’ for him, and she jumps in the vat of acid she does so on her own will (again contrary to the B52 comic where he pushes her in). Walking away we see the moment he realizes that he is in fact in love with her and he jumps in to save her. He would never do such a thing in their previous relationships; and does not abuse her the rest of the film. Thus any abuse was at hand before they were together and just because he is in fact a sadistic criminal.
From the moment Suicide Squad was introduced as a movie, people have been giving flack to the costume of Harley Quinn; however this is probably one of the strongest arguments for this movie being a fantastic feminist movie. Not once in the movie does Harley Quinn ever compromise herself or what she wants for another person. She rocks what she wants to rocks and owns it fantastically, and anyone whom objectifies pays a heavy price.
I am 28 years old, and I will honestly say that there were points of my life where I thought that the best way to fight the system of sexism was to exploit the system. I would play up the fact that most men would see me as nothing more than as something for sex and then shoot them down. Was this the only way, or the best? Probably not. However the new ideas and information about sexism and freedom for women is still a relatively new revolution in the way it has been happening. The bad woman of the DCU however have been using this for most of their lives. Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn all understood that most men were easily exploited and manipulated through sexuality. Thus their costumes are just a way for them to figure out whom they can exploit.
Harley is acutely aware of whom she is using her sexuality to exploit and is not a huge fan of the fact that she is viewed this way, although it helps her get what she wants. We see her go from one scene where she is playing up that fact with the prison warden to the next where she has no sexuality played in her relationship with Dead Shot. Further those whom do see her as a sex symbol either she or Joker end up killing or possibly torturing. (see above). So then if she is wearing what she wants and is just punishing those who look at that to objectify her how is that anti-feminism? You can not talk out of both sides of your mouth, saying on one hand that a ‘skimpy outfit’ is objectifying on a woman whom does not put up with that and then fighting for woman to be able to wear what they want without the sexual connotations including no bras and midriffs.
There are Men and Women Play Every Role
This movie shows a perfect balance of men and women’s range of characters. We have on one had women playing hero/anti-hero roles with no victim or savior energy; and on the other we have women looking for saving. Then we have men doing the same thing. Thus completely showing the range of female and male roles in movies and not caging one into either exclusively.
There are plenty of women to choose from whom are void of needing a savior, Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, and Katana. Each one is clearly the spear of their own destiny, and need no one other then themselves to get anything done. Further each one also plays a range of other roles within that. Harley is the one whom is sexy and crazy. Amanda Waller is one whom is almost is without a heart, to the point where even Batman does not mess with her. Katana is avenging her husband and has been a trained killer most of her life. Then on the other side you have women like Professor Mooney whom straight up asks for help early on in the film. She even looks at Flag as her savior and trusts him to either save her or at least put her out of her misery if the Enchantress gets too big, and killing her.
Men are just as ranged in this movie as women. We have every type; but focusing on the savior complex we see Flag break down and ask for help and saving. He is the one who needs the team to pick him up and keep him fighting. Leaving him to be both the savior and the savie.
There is No Talk Just Do
Finally this movie does not even take the time to talk about what they should do when it comes to women in fights. Unlike Deadpool where we see Wade ask about what it means to hit a woman in his movie, the male characters do not skip a beat to treat the women on an even playing field. Batman even punches Harley Quinn to knock her out – although he is careful not to do any serious damage like breaking her nose. Too often in even pointing this out is there a question of equality between the worth of both women and men. Instead Suicide Squad just leaves the question alone and plays it perfect, men hit women in fight scenes; but they are aware of their strength. They make sure that they fight is something that is equal and fair. Women are fighting and should be treated with the combat respect; but in some cases they are not physically able to take the whole damage a male’s force might make, so they scale it back to what is necessary.
Say what you will about Suicide Squad as a movie; however it can not be argued that the final cut made a fantastic stand for feminism. We are all looking for a world where we are seen as having equal worth in what we do, and this movie does just that. It allows for a, I will be it crazy, but balanced relationship, allows women to wear and do what they want and put down those whom would objectify them, gives a great range of roles to both sexes, and finally puts women and men on an equal playing field when fighting. The movie is in a universe in and of it self, so I hope that this trend continues in DCU as they have a fantastic slew of female and male characters that they can continue to play with.