Pink Unicorn Fetishes & Gothic Absurdity: Defining Normal In Suicide Squad
By Neil Merrett from Squareblind.
It is hard to say whether it is a strength or weakness of the supervillain mashup movie Suicide Squad that the film’s most arguably compelling couple is Jai Courtney’s Aussie superbogan Captain Boomerang and his cuddly pink unicorn.
As stereotypical portrayals of Aussie’s go, this lager swilling arsehole capable of killing with the most Australian weapon imaginable, seems to value only one thing, a cuddly mythical creature kept in his pocket that could be more than just a friend.
While the exact details of the character’s fetish for brightly coloured, onehorned animals is largely irrelevant within the film’s overall narrative, it is among a handful of standout moments from a decidedly safe film about supposedly awful super beings. While lightly touching upon themes such as kink, forbidden desire and the general oddness that drives us as human beings, it is ‘Pinkie’ the unicorn is one of the more successful cases of genuine counter culture in Suicide Squad. A story that promises to touch upon the murkiness of love, morality and heroism.
Many of these themes have been successfully explored for years in DC’s namesake comic and other similar titles it has published such as Gail Simone’s Secret Six.
Yet the majority of the film seems like a glaring missed opportunity to have a mainstream superhero story explore the odd, eccentric, sometimes monstrous, sometimes noble sides of humanity, with our contradictions, perversions and flexible acceptance of what ‘normal’ means.
Both newcomers and comic purists may have thanked them for it. In the end, the film promises a collection of morally repugnant, if somewhat charismatic and incredibly good looking characters, but eventually succumbs to a being fairly generic super hero action movie. Needless to say ticket sales have, so far, been better than the overall critical reaction might suggest.
In terms of mainstream blockbusters, just like 50 Shades of Grey, Suicide Squad appears to have largely bottled a grand opportunity to give mainstream audiences a taste of something… well a little less mainstream to contemplate through their 3D glasses. Few of us are likely to meet our potential to be supervillains, but many cinemagoers are likely to labour under the apprehension they might not be entirely “normal”, altruistic or morally pure in that classic Disney princess sort of way.
But what does the film tell us about badness? Certainly, there are moments of something unique and interesting lurking in Suicide Squad that hint at something truly funny, moving, subversive and possibly, quite good.
For instance, one of the film’s most memorable moments is an absurdly gothic scene detailing the origins of a key character. Jared Leto’s Joker, having seduced/tortured Margot Robbie’s Harleen Quinzel, then demands that she chooses, begs for and commits her life, body and who knows what else to him by throwing herself into a vat of chemicals below.
Whether you like it or not, in seemingly merging hammer horror, high camp, R&B, baptism and a smidge of sado masochism it is certainly different from what Marvel has done to great success.
Presumably mirroring the Joker’s own transformation, the heavily stylised, almost vampiric scene involving two characters necking in a soupy concoction, replete with some canny scoring and soundtrack use, is something odd, weird, upsetting and possibly quite sexy at the same time.
Later, as the film reaches it generic kickboxing finale, the now ‘villainous’ Harley Quinn chastises the tragic backstory of one main character for assuming that someone considered a super villain has the right to masquerade as having a “normal” life without consequences. Rather than succumbing to pity, she suggests that even a supposed bad guy has to find some form of acceptance in themselves and choices, whether a mancrocodile hybrid, wiseass assassin with a living breathing conscience at odds or a square jawed, once infallible soldier now facing impossible choices.
“Own that shit,” she informs one member of the squad as a means to embrace their pain, weirdness and villainy. It is perhaps advice the filmmakers should have themselves embraced with regard to their talented cast and the oddness of their characters.
In the closing moments of the film, Will Smith’s charming assassin Deadshot tries to build some form of normal relationship with his young daughter in accepting his dual role as father and professional murderer.
His reward as a jailed saviour is to help his daughter with her maths homework, the only way someone a master hitman could, explaining geometry based around the numerous factors likely to affect a bullet on its path to killing someone. We are informed briefly in the film that Deadshot’s preteen daughter is smart, moral and aware of her father’s villainy and incarceration.
Yet it is almost touching that they nonetheless are written as having a damaged, loving, complicated and imperfect relationship to each other. In the scheme of the film’s big budget preposterousness, it’s a fairly spot on representation of not being able to choose our families of the ones we love. By the end of the film, this strong cast of oddball characters have saved the world for love and friendship, becoming in the process a fairly routine superhero group hazy past misdemeanors aside.
Yet is is not outright villainy that the target audience flocking to see the film over the last week are likely to have taken away and most related to.
It is more likely the brief glimpses of damaged psyches, unrelenting unconventional love, imperfect family bonds, and makeshift heroes with their perversions for cuddly mythical creatures that its audience of geeks, nerds and seemingly well adjusted thrill seekers will remember.
So forget the Wonder Woman and Batman spinoffs, or a even Suicide Squad sequel, let’s just have some more family unfriendly Maths lessons, pink unicorns and whatever darkness lies in the minds of killers, monsters, soldiers and people deeply and unconditionally in love. Now that would be subversive.
Neil Merrett is a struggling technology journalist, comic book reader and co founder of gaming lifestyle blog Squareblind.
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