DC hasn’t had the best of starts to its cinematic universe with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice both being eclipsed by the polarising reception of the comic book adaptations. While Snyder seems to have run the franchise to the ground in the first two movies, fans have pinned all their hopes on Suicide Squad.
For the uninitiated, Suicide Squad is a movie about a group of ‘bad people‘ who’ve been assembled to ‘do some good’. It’s essentially a suicide mission in which the government can abandon the villains while sending them to their obvious doom.
Everyone’s been pretty stoked about this movie ever since the Bohemian Rhapsody trailer came out. It looked like a lot of fun at that instant. Over time, Warner Brothers released a number of trailers and TV spots to promote the movie. People were really excited to see Harley Quinn in the movie and while it felt like the big arrival of the antagonist, the trailers highlighted a bigger problem at hand.
To understand this point better, let’s take a look at the origin of Harley Quinn.
Also known as Dr. Harleen Quinzel, Harley is the most flamboyant member of the squad. She is neuro-divergent and uses her ‘craziness’ to outsmart her opponents. She is a former Arkham Asylum psychiatrist, who falls desperately in love with The Joker while treating him. She is driven to psychosis and super-villainy by Batman’s relentless pursuit of the man she loves, and becomes sidekick and lover to The Joker for a time – calling herself Harley Quinn.
She made her first appearance in the famous Batman: The Animated Series. Remember how she’d scare the living daylights out of you even though she had no superpowers? People who mention the Joker when they talk about a menacing villain haven’t really seen Harley at her murderous best.
She broke into the Arkham Asylum with a handful of weapons and is the only villain to achieve this feat. She uses her agility to best her opponents. One would think that the trailers highlight these things and WB delivered. The problem is that they decided to hyper-sexualise a character who was herself a victim of abuse.
Harley Quinn suffered years of abuse at the hands of the Joker.
Every time we see a person ‘wishing’ that their relationship could be like Joker and Harley, we cringe. We cringe really hard. It might look happy and dandy on top, but in reality, Harley has suffered years of abuse at the hands of Joker.
The abuse was so extreme that Harley even abandoned her daughter because she was scared of what Joker would do to her. Yes, it was that bad. With all the ‘Daddy’s lil monster’ tattoos on Margot Robbie, it is extremely likely that the viewers will miss out on that.
The rampant use of the ‘Women in Refrigerators’ trope in the DC cinematic universe.
The Women in Refrigerators is a trope that is used very often in pop-culture. The term describes the use of the death or injury of a female comic book character as a plot device in a story starring a male comic book character. It is also used to note the depowerment or elimination of a female comic-book character.
Even while Harley Quinn is extremely powerful, she looks all set to be a woman in this metaphoric refrigerator. She might have to be depowered or neutralised to provide Joker an incentive to go after the law enforcement agencies.
It’s also interesting to see how DC uses this trope way too often in the movies. In Man of Steel, it was Martha who is harmed by Zod. In BvS, Lex Luthor had an assistant who just spoke two lines before being killed. Even Martha and Lois were mere props in the plotline.
In a trailer of a movie about supervillains, there should be no space for dedicated ass shots.
In every Suicide Squad trailer, there is at least one second dedicated to Harley Quinn’s butt. Did we focus on Batman’s butt in BvS? Or Superman’s in Man of Steel? No. Did they focus on Deadshot’s ass in the trailer? No. Then why should Harley be the one who is being sexualised? Is it a desperate attempt by Warner Brothers to get horny teenagers to watch the movie for Margot Robbie?
Here’s something from Trailer #1:
This is from Trailer #2:
And from the last trailer, we had this:
Please note that nobody has a problem with a character who is sexually liberated. When producers try to make up for the lack of content in a movie with a pointless over-the-top sexualised avatar, that’s when the problem arises. Harley is more than just a piece of ass. In fact, she can kick ass more than any other member of the squad.
Even while Harley is an empowered woman, that doesn’t really explain the apparent ‘male gaze’ of the shots used in the trailers. Let her actions show that she is empowered, not the cameras.
Harley Quinn’s look is basically plagiarised from Debbie Harry in Blondie (the band). Could she have been in the classic Jester costume? Yes. That would have made her look a little more threatening as well but the producers decided against it in an attempt to be ‘edgier’.
Every time someone tries talking about the sexualisation of women in anything related to comics, a lot of people are quick to point out the alleged sexualisation of men as well. That’s probably the most stupid defense against this problem.
Well-built men who can beat the shit out of their opponents isn’t sexual. It’s a power fantasy. When one looks at a muscular male superhero, it is basically because one wants to have the same amount of power. It’s more of a ‘I want to be this way’ portrayal. With women, it’s a matter of ‘I’d tap that ass’ portrayal. Do you see the problem now?
DC should try not to ruin our favourite characters with their apparent will to mint as much money as Marvel does. Even when Marvel has Scarlett Johnson playing Black Widow, we don’t see dedicated ass shots of the Russian superhero. Maybe this is a small thing for the producers, but these small changes go a long way for those who truly love the comics.
We hope that we’ll see less of Harley Quinn’s actual ass and more of her kicking ass in the Suicide Squad movie which is all set to hit the big screen this August 5th.