Blessed with three sons, I have an impressive knowledge of superheroes. DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, IDW. Yaaay. Kick-ass mum. I know them all.
After seventeen years of trying hard to stay awake… my conclusion?
That superhero movies have a formula.
- A good guy;
- A supportive but hard-to-get girlfriend;
- Some evil villain he needs to defeat;
- A world on the edge of chaos, and;
- An eventual happy ending.
Keeeeerching. Box office hit. It sells.
Slept through another one.
Where be the women? What be their purpose?
Where women are given a role (cue Wonder Woman, Black Widow, Captain Marvel, Storm, Batgirl, She-Hulk), it’s generally because
- the men are busy, or
- the screenwriters can’t think of any other way to sell tickets but to put a beautiful shapely woman in a metal corset or rubber body suit.
Did I mention that I look a bit like Wonder Woman on a good day?
Where cake is involved, I can also shoot a mean photon out of my hands.
Poof, nailed it. I am Chocolate Sponge Woman. Girlfriend of Bath Bomb Man.
Women are equal to men only when they are given physical dominance by some vaguely defined extra-terrestrial power, some artificially induced strength.
Tip for all you screenwriters and sisters out there – you’re not fighting for equality by proving you can punch harder. Putting a woman in a metal skirt and boob-tube and telling her to save the world is not radical.
But then comes…..
(Dum dum duuuuuuum…..)
The female superhero (or more rightly female anti-hero), Harley Quinn and the wonderful 2021 movie, The Suicide Squad. A movie which right royally upends the formula, by proving why the formula doesn’t work in the first place.
Welcome a new feminist formula of genuinely celebrating women.
Have I mentioned already how much I love this movie?
I LOVE THIS MOVIE!
Scrap looking like Wonder Woman or embracing my inner Chocolate Sponge.
I WANT TO BE HARLEY QUINN.
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in The Suicide Squad completely rejects conventional patriarchal tropes. She’s colourful, renegade, eccentric, intelligent, brutal, messy, deliciously horny and utterly delightful.
A joyous, ultra-violent Disney Princess, resplendent in a modestly beautiful, red silk ballgown and bomber boots.
SO MUCH FUN!
In this movie, Harley escapes her persona as the doomed, lovestruck Joker clone (in the first Suicide Squad Movie), or defined by her traumatic and abusive past (Birds of Prey).
Summary of the Movie (*Spoiler Alert*)
The only survivor of the doomed Squad, Harley is whisked off to the Palace of Corto Maltese dictator, General Presidente Silvio Luna. Rather than becoming his prisoner, she becomes a princess.
(note – we first meet the Presidente when he steps out of a hot bath, muscled, dripping and looking like a right tasty snack).
The Presidente adores her for being the ultimate icon of anti-American rebellion. We all do!
A wild montage showcases a day in the dating life of Harley Quinn: an extravagant meal; a romantic dance; feeding the happy birds (just like a proper Disney princess); and a proposal of marriage.
The piece de resistance is a sex scene to end all sex scenes. Harley’s horniness celebrated as they bang their way round, magically destroying the Palatial room. A sweetly choreographed dance of the silly and passionate. She’s wrapped in that giant ballgown. Our sassy anti-hero gets to be sexy without being sexualised.
Marrying him might not be that bad after all, right?
Then he reveals his true hand.
Uh-oh. Another toxic relationship?
He plans to use the monster in the tower to torture the women and children of his enemies (created by mad, manic scientist – the brilliant Peter Capaldi – with a load of syringes hanging out his head).
Red flags, Harley, red flags.
“I made a promise to myself that if I ever saw a red flag, I’d take notice… and you see, killing kids is kind of a red flag.”
Well…. to be fair, she’s not wrong.
What does a Renegade Disney Princess do?
D’uh. She shoots him in the chest.
Only turns out the Corto Maltese don’t like it when their Presidents are brutally murdered, even by rebellious Anti-American Icons in ballgowns.
She’s thrown in jail and we see two of the most Harley-incredible moments in superhero movie history.
She chokes a man out with her thighs – oooft.
Both aspirational and hot.
She picks the lock with her toes, circus stylee.
Thereafter the world goes ‘Harley Vision.’
The most gorgeously deranged murder spree I’ve ever seen.
She shoots, smashes, stabs her way through the Corto Maltese soldiers.
Surrounded by animated birds.
Flowers spray from wounds.
Hearts gush with colour and beauty where there should be blood.
All that before the absolutely spectacular finale.
Oh, that finale.
I was rivetted.
A superhero movie which leans right into the female gaze. Not a metal corset or a Tesseract in sight.
And yes, I want to be Harley Quinn.
SEE THE MOVIE ON THE BIG SCREEN IF YOU CAN.