by Matt McKenna
Though the target demographic for Suicide Squad can’t yet vote in the United States, it was was still thoughtful of director David Ayer to create a PG-13 film that educates children as to the state of the Republican Party. By fashioning the silly misanthrope protagonists in Suicide Squad after Republican candidates, Ayers deftly describes the sad circumstance many Republican politicians and voters are experiencing this election cycle–they dislike the candidates they’re obliged to support.
For those unfamiliar with the Suicide Squad comic book franchise, the protagonists are a group of DC Comics villains who are pressed into service by the United States in order to battle other, even worse villains. These anti-heroes, who share a cinematic universe with Batman, Superman, and other superheros in similarly boring films, are compelled to fight alongside the “good guys” because the good guys have threatened to detonate an explosive device implanted in each of the villain’s necks. It does seem a bit unfair to call the team the “Suicide Squad” given that if the protagonists don’t go along with the plan, their heads will be blown off. Alas, I suppose a more accurate title like “Hostage Squade” isn’t quite as mellifluous.
If the concept of Suicide Squad seems like a breath of fresh air compared to the noxious wind that accompanies most of the other Marvel and DC comic book movies, prepare to be disappointed. While the protagonists may not be the trite, righteous do-gooders we’ve been forced to endure over the past decade of me-too comic book cash-grabs fashioned in the form of feature films, the plot centers around the same tired tropes as its predecessors. Like the similarly incoherent Ghostbusters film from earlier this summer, Suicide Squad involves an action-figure-ready gaggle of wry underdogs charging into a skyscraper to battle a supernatural being who, before destroying the world, must first conjure a glowing beam of light and shoot it into the sky for two hours. Why does this evil spirit monster need to project a glowing energy beam through the ceiling? I don't know; Maybe that detail was covered somewhere within the bountiful dialogue, but even if it was, I can't imagine myself thinking, “Ohhh, okay. Sure, that makes sense.” Anyway, what Suicide Squad lacks in an interesting plot, it certainly makes up for in its uncanny depiction of the current state of the Republican Party.
Ayers may not have made a great film, but he did make an educational one. If, like many Americans, you're confused as to what happened to the Republican Party this year, Suicide Squad is an excellent primer. Indeed, the first hint that the film should be read as a chronicling of the party’s travails in 2016 is that the character entrusted to keep the Squad on track is named “Rick Flag.” Commander Flag’s name is a clear reference to the nationalistic rhetoric Republicans bandy about in order to remind voters that Republicans really, really (no, really!) love America. But even more revealing is that, like many Republicans, Flag dislikes the very crew he’s forced to support. Just as Flag resents having to work with criminals pretending to be heroes, Republicans like John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and Paul Ryan resent having to work with Trump who is pretending to be a conservative. Unfortunately for Flag and Republicans, they are so afraid of losing to their nemeses, they’re willing to work with people they despise.
More specifically, the film spends most of its time on two Suicide Squad members who are obviously meant to represent current candidates for the right-wing parties in the United States. The first of these two characters is Harley Quinn, the vocal leader of the Suicide Squad whose bizarre behavior is the result of her brains being scrambled with electricity. With her loose canon demeanor, she is a dead ringer for Donald Trump, the vocal leader of the Republican party who, unlike Quinn, doesn’t have a justification for his odd behavior. And just as Quinn says insane things to get a rise out of people (“Huh? What was that? I should kill everyone and escape?”), so does Trump (“I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me. Believe me.”). Additionally, both Quinn and Trump are childishly selfish yet manage to avoid repercussion from their comrades. In Suicide Squad, there is a scene in which Quinn’s attempts to escape, which nearly results in the machine gun death of her entire team. Despite her poor choice almost resulting in their deaths, the other Suicide Squad members don’t have the courage to question Quinn on her betrayal, much less levy any sort of punishment. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how racist, sexist, or plum crazy Trump behaves–most Republican leaders are too gutless to rebuke him.
Although the Quinn/Trump relationship is the most obvious allusion in the film, the more interesting comparison is between Deadshot, the wise-cracking assassin who never misses and Gary Johnson, the Republican turned Libertarian Presidential candidate who will never win the Presidency. At first glance, Deadshot and Gary Johnson don’t fit in with their peers as they both appear to possess a modicum of ethics and sanity. In fact, the only moment in which the audience gets a hint that Deadshot might, in fact, be a little unhinged is when he is shown a table stacked with guns and ammunition; Deadshot can’t contain himself as his loads the weapons and fires away with the gleeful abandon and enthusiasm of a child devouring a slice of birthday cake. It is therefore no coincidence that Gary Johnson also comes off as exceptionally reasonable until guns come into the picture; Johnson is one of those folks who truly believes that if only everyone had a semi-automatic weapon strapped to their hip, fewer people would be shot. Through the comparison of Deadshot and Gary Johnson, Suicide Squad reminds us that nearly anyone can appear logical when standing next to illogical people (e.g. Quinn, Trump).
If you need a two-hour synopsis of the Republican Party in 2016, Suicide Squad might be worth watching since the way the Harley Quinn’s tiresome insanity goes unchecked by her peers perfectly describes how Trump leads Republicans by the nose. That said, if you’re exhausted with all this election talk, maybe you should skip the film. And another thing–why does a comic book movie need to be over two hours anyway? If Suicide Squad were only ninety minutes long, it’d still be a bad movie, but it’d be 25% less bad in terms of duration, which I think would be a huge improvement. Perhaps the same logic applies to elections as well.