Episode 425: The Suicide Squad Shows How To Write Female Heroes


I think it’s safe to say The Suicide Squad is way, way better than the movie we got 5 years ago. This version had a lot of good action, nifty character designs and, most importantly, really good characters. Everyone has their own personality and the way they interact with each other is incredibly entertaining. This is shocking considering you sometimes only get a few minutes with them before their moniker becomes wholly apparent. They may officially be called Task Force X but The Suicide Squad does seem like a more apt title for the group.

I did notice something about The Suicide Squad nobody seems to be talking about. It’s something that, in all honesty, isn’t apparent if you treat the film like your run-of-the-mill superhero movie. It does deal with a couple of the characters of Task Force X. Most specifically, I’m talking about Harley Quinn and Ratcatcher 2. These two are the most prominent female characters in the movie and I couldn’t help but notice how well written they were. So much so I’m almost inclined to categorize The Suicide Squad as a feminist film in disguise as a superhero film. That might sound a little far-fetched but, because of how they’re written and their ultimate roles in the story, that was the weird conclusion my brain went to.

Before I do talk about why I say that, it’s best that I talk first about the female-centric geek movies that have come before The Suicide Squad. I’m going to focus on the 2016 all-female Ghostbusters and Marvel’s Captain Marvel.

Let’s go delve first into the all-female Ghostbusters movie as I had a huge problem with it. It wasn’t the writing per say but rather the decision to make all the Ghostbusters women. A lot of geeks saw this as an overcorrection as the original Ghostbusters only had males in the group. So, as a weird form of revenge, it only made sense to make this version all girls, right? It looked like they were pandering to the female crowd, pleading for them to love the movie because it’s for girls! If you hate it, well, that means you hate women… because it’s an all-female Ghostbusters team! What kind of marketing is that?

I will say, however, the 2016 Ghostbusters isn’t a bad movie. There were some parts I found enjoyable but those moments were few and far between. The really weird thing is the enjoyable moments usually came from Chris Hemsworth’s character, the only other male character in the movie. Sure, he can come off as too dumb for his own good but I gotta hand it to Chris Hemsworth as he made his time on screen the only real thing I like from the movie!

I now have to talk about Captain Marvel as her character is, in my opinion, one of the worst written female superheroes out there. I’m not even going to hate on Bree Larson, even if she does kind of come off as all superior at times. I’m just going to focus on Captain Marvel, the character. If you’ve watched the movie, one of the main conceits of her character is she’s already incredibly powerful but the Kree have been keeping it all in check. It’s supposed to be this incredibly powerful moment when she breaks free from the limiting force and finally use her full potential.

However, this does lead to one of the biggest problems I have with Captain Marvel: she never has to try to become stronger. She’s already super powerful so all she had to do was rip off the control chip and she could reach her full power. Oh, they also cut in between shots of her growing up and failing at things while, guess what, males telling her that girls can’t do things but she keeps on getting back up to prove them wrong. Ugh, this is just laying it on too thick.

Like I said, this is supposed to be a powerful moment. However, to me, this just means Captain Marvel was just too dumb to realize she was already strong and it’s her own fault for being so weak in the first place. Also, making her too powerful made all of the action scenes with her feel boring as there was no tension anymore! We already saw what she can do because of her incredible powers!

Now, let’s go look at how The Suicide Squad write female characters. First, we have Harley Quinn and how she takes control of her own destiny. During the middle of the movie, she gets captured, has a fling with the ruler of Corto Maltese before killing him, gets captured again, tortured for a bit before making her escape all by herself. This is actually like a mini-movie within The Suicide Squad. However, what I did notice is how she never loses her agency in the situation. She’s mostly in control.

Harley Quinn voluntarily spends the day with the ruler on her own volition because she thinks he’s a nice guy. She realizes her mistake when he suggests killing kids is a good thing so she shoots him through the heart. She gets recaptured but, without the rest of Task Force X’s help, manages to break out of the palace all by her lonesome! She’s not some damsel in distress here! She’s more of a badass character!

We now have to talk about the other main female character in The Suicide Squad, Ratcatcher 2. Now, she’s definitely not as strong as Harley Quinn. Despite being classified as a supervillain, she’s actually very nice and naive. She’s not really a fighter as well. In fact, she has to be saved by Bloodsport a couple of times during the climax of the movie, once against Peacemaker and another from Starro. However, despite this fact, she’s actually the main reason why The Suicide Squad managed to take down Starro. She’s the one who summons all the rats of Corto Maltese to attack the alien starfish and, in turn, actually return the favor by saving Bloodsport from the mind-controlled citizens!

Also, not many people seemed to notice this but it’s actually the team of Ratcatcher 2 and Harley Quinn who manages to take down Starro! With the alien distracted by all of the rats swarming at him, this allows Harley to use Javelin’s javelin to pierce through Starro’s eye and also allowing the rats to climb into the creature and eat him from the inside, killing the creature. It’s not the guy with the big guns or the humanoid shark person or the guy who can shoot destructive polka dots at people. No, it’s the girl who can control rats and the crazy gal with a spear who take down the monstrous kaiju!

After watching this scene, I was half-expecting a lot of fans to be upset at how they just had to have the women of Task Force X kill the creature and how this was just pandering to the female audience. However, for the life of me, I couldn’t find anyone complaining about how it was the females who killed Starro. That’s because it’s not pandering to the female crowd. The Suicide Squad wrote all of their characters, both the males and the females, as strong people with their own distinguishing personalities and with their own strengths and weaknesses. Even Harley, who I mentioned never loses her own agency, can get sucked in by a charming dictator early on, even though the word “dictator” should have been a dead giveaway.

The Suicide Squad demonstrates how to write strong females by not simply designating them as females. Rather, they’re strong characters with their own flaws who just so happen to be females.


What do you think of the female characters in The Suicide Squad? Let me know in the comments section below!

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