Why Do We Love ‘Suicide Squad’ So Much? How Comic Book Antiheroes Have Taught Us Self-Acceptance

In case you hadn’t heard or read it a hundred times today, the majority of movie critics came together to declare that Warner Bros.’ freshly released Suicide Squad was merely a hot mess, and DC fans took the reviews about as well as a spit in the face, deeming them unworthy of judging comic book content and drawing up a petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes — although .

Thankfully, not all the reactions around the Task Force X’s invasion of the silver screen were vitriolic, with the indefatigable comic book icon Stan Lee after the latter let off steam with a provocative “F*ck Marvel” at the Suicide Squad world premiere.

We Love The Characters Of Suicide Squad, And That’s What The Movie Was Built On

'Suicide Squad' / DC/Warner Bros.

‘Suicide Squad’ / DC/Warner Bros.

And while it’d be easy to dismiss these outraged reactions as unhealthy obsession for conspiracy theories — the loudest voices accusing critics of being paid by Disney to favor Marvel — there’s another simple reason for people to reject the idea of Suicide Squad being a failure, and that’s the fans’ love for the characters.

Clearly, the characters are what Suicide Squad is all about. There’s no way you missed the cast members’ , and how they prepared for the role by pushing their own boundaries as if Ayer’s set was secretly some kind of introspection contest.

As Margot Robbie told The Washington Post,

“Despite the size or scope of the film or storyline, you either have directors who are character-driven or you don’t. You have directors who create incredible visuals, you’ve got directors who create incredible, complex plots, and you have David Ayer directors, who are so character based. I think that’s why this felt different. As an actor, that’s just so much more challenging. You can’t dial it in. There is no reprieve from it.”

Hence the high expectations: If you take beloved characters and make the movie all about them, especially when some are making their first movie appearance ever, you’re bound to get a lot of people’s hopes up (great trailers will do that, too).

Good Guy Heroes Are Out: Fans Relate To Flaws

'Deadpool' / 20th Century Fox
‘Deadpool’ / 20th Century Fox

What’s so lovable about this bunch of dirty henchmen, though? The first and most obvious answer is that good guys are simply not so cool anymore. Heroes such as Superman are too bland, too linear in their quest to save the world, which is probably why Warner tentatively added as many layers of broody-ness to the character as they could.

The antihero is the new hero. Comic book readers and moviegoers identify with the imperfect guy, the one with the visible flaws, the one who dares to break the rules once in a while (or when you’re Deadpool, all the time). It’s just about being a bad guy either and racking up the kills: An antihero’s got dry humor that matches their self-awareness. You could argue that the Suicide Squad characters are villains, but because they’re portrayed as being the lesser evil, I’d rather consider them antiheroes.

Just look at the success of the Merc with a Mouth in theaters earlier this year, and the reports of Suicide Squad undergoing reshoot after reshoot to lighten the tone. Even the dripping neon colors drowning every poster seem to attempt to reach that perfect middle point between evil and fun.

Because Superheroes And Villains Are Different, They’ve Taught Us Self-Acceptance

But all the badassery is only at the surface of our love for these lost souls seeking redemption. What’s ultimately so endearing and relatable about figures like the ones making up the Suicide Squad sounds as corny as it’s important: They’re rejects, and yet they embrace it. They’re different, and all on a quest to embrace their inner weirdo. Within the Task Force X, they’re at different stages of this quest, but even in their darkest moments they make us feel cool about what makes us different.

Harley Quinn is the best example, as she’s taken such an emotional toll from her relationship with the Joker. We tend to romanticize their couple, overlooking the abuse that characterized the Joker’s hold on the Clown Princess. And when you realize how self-destructive her love for Mistah J has been, it’s even more impressive how she manages to not let herself end up as a puppet — in the comics, she eventually beats up the Joker and moves on.

From Mutants To Outlaws: When You Learn That Being Different Can Be Cool, Too

Self-acceptance before anything else is a core theme in superhero comic books, and you’ve probably been wondering why it took me so long to mention the X-Men. Mutants represent the burden of the difference that makes you stand out from the crowd, but just like superpowers can be used for good or evil, that difference can be turned into an advantage and a quality.

I’ll add the Guardians of the Galaxy to cite each of the three superhero movie studios, but you’ll get that the concept is straightforward and the examples aplenty. The Guardians are a-holes and they love it. It’s not even only about accepting their own jerkiness: Drax provides a metaphor for dealing with pain, the difficulty of this process which is also illustrated by Suicide Squad‘s Deadshot and El Diablo. Self-acceptance means facing your inner demons, and these heroes remind us there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

‘Suicide Squad’ / DC/Warner Bros.

If you look at the fans’ attachment this way, doesn’t it seem even more important that Suicide Squad turns out to be good? Considering there’s so much love for the characters already, maybe their individual performances will be enough to carry the movie; either way, what their existence has taught us remains beyond the box office performance of their 2016 silver screen incarnation.

Which Suicide Squad character do you relate to the most? Do you have high expectations for the movie?

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