My Inspired Truth

Batman Villains and Suicide Squad: Part One

Spoiler Alert:

The continuations of this blog post DO contains spoilers for the Suicide Squad movie. If you have not seen it yet, you may wish to see it before reading “Part Two” or “Part Three”.

 

A Little Background:

When discussing fictional characters and, specifically, villains, things are typically very cut and dry, so to speak. It’s usually clear that they are “bad guys” and it’s clear who the “good guys” are. But I have a confession to make… I’ve always loved the villains, especially the female villains. I think a great deal of this approach has stemmed from the idea that people are complex and flawed, which is part of the appeal of DC, and specifically, Batman villains, and Batman himself. The viewers see our own behaviors and experiences mirrored in them and thus can identify and empathize, because we too are complex and flawed.

Terrible things can happen to ordinary / good people, and they become the monsters they sought to fight against (like Harvey Dent/Two-Face). Other people develop flexible moral compasses based upon life experiences (like Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Penguin). Tragedy happens and all too often we, as individuals come to a precipice – do I fall into madness/rage/chaos or do I “rise to the challenge”. Bruce Wayne/Batman was the character who could overcome his personal tragedies; the Batman villains are those who could not.

 

The Appeal of Batman & Batman Villains

My introduction to the DC universe & Batman happened like many people who were born in the 80s and grew up in the 90s. There was a cartoon which aired on weekday afternoons, Batman The Animated Series**, while I was growing up. This is what prompted me to ask my mom about buying comic books at the store where we would buy pogs (cardboard disks we all collected and traded, for those of you who don’t remember them).

I liked Catwoman’s embodied duality, and that Poison Ivy was a scientist. I thought the Riddler was creepy and perplexing. The Joker, who may be one of the most compelling mentally-ill characters to date, didn’t do much for me, but I was fascinated by his desire to incite chaos and destruction. I liked the artwork. I thought Batman was so cool because he wanted to help people without needing accolades. And now, as I’m writing this, I realize that when you’re a kid growing up watching the Baltimore news and hearing daily murder counts, Baltimore seems an awful lot like Gotham, whether you live in or out of the city limits.

 

Ok, where are we going with this…

Batman The Animated Series introduced a new character, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, who came to be known as Harley Quinn, or “The Joker’s Girlfriend”. Her background story was later revealed in Mad Love. Mad Love was written by the creators of Batman TAS, based upon the real-life experiences of their friend. Without giving away any spoilers to those of you who want to read it, I will say this: it’s a fictionalized story about an abusive relationship that it feels true, and that’s because it is.

Harley’s character evolved over time, eventually leading up to the Harley Quinn of The New 52 series. She’s snarky and smart and independent. Harley is fully developed, no longer just the Joker’s girlfriend/side-kick. She is still healing from her time spent in the treacherous on-again/off-again relationship with “Mista J”. Harley Quinn is a character who stands at the intersection of victim, villain, and hero.

 

My Truth…

As a survivor of abuse and someone with both acquired and organic/in-born mental-illness I can certainly identify with the complexity of this “victim, villain, hero” status. I almost feel like I shouldn’t self-disclose this because of who I am now – mother, yoga teacher, artist… But I have to own my past and live my truth…

My truth is that I too am still healing and working through my shit. I have come a long way from the places I have been and done a great deal of work. I also know I more work to do. Just like other survivors and folks with mental illness, I have hurt myself and other people. Conversely, I also saved myself and my daughter when we left that hellacious situation, and I know that I am a great friend, and a teacher who offers all I can give to my students.

The person I am today strives to live in love, instead of fear, and to do the right thing. Sometimes I screw up, making decisions out of the fear, rage, sadness, and frustration I feel when triggered. Harley is a character I can identify with therefore I am protective of her when it comes to her treatment by writers, directors, and fans…

 

And now we have this movie…

I saw Suicide Squad last night, and I am still collecting my thoughts. This is mostly because I recognize every character’s entire backstory can’t be told in an ensemble-based 2 1/2 hour long movie. The character and her experiences/actions are complicated. As a result, I have decided to break this post down into several articles.

To Be Continued…

 

** Batman The Animated Series is available for your viewing pleasure on Amazon Prime. I highly recommend it because even as an adult it is enjoyable; and perhaps even more so than in childhood because of the nuances.

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