Destroy All Monsters: I Don't Want To See A Movie Called SUICIDE SQUAD

Contributor; Toronto, Canada (@tederick)
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Destroy All Monsters: I Don't Want To See A Movie Called SUICIDE SQUAD

It's the title of an existing comic book, and I understand that; and given DC's track record, at least since Watchmen, it's likely to be a hit-and-fade barrage of generic marketing bolstering a bafflingly undercooked Guardians of the Galaxy knockoff that will come and go and be forgotten. The Suicide Squad movie probably won't amount to much, and yet it already skeeves me out.

Something about that title. Something about the idea of a hundred thousand cherry-bright movie posters with the word "SUICIDE" in a ragged font, all over America, hawking a movie about a gang of lovable anti-heroes who would normally be society's villains, but are here corralled to go on impossible missions and maybe get killed - but that's okay, because see above re: villains. They're disposable.

My colleagues hasten to point out that the suicide-mission team movie is not a new idea. No, it isn't. But what's been done before is not a justification for what's being done now; cultural context changes over time, and we've rarely had a better year to examine that phenomenon - on a variety of battlefronts - than 2014.

And it isn't really the idea of a DC version of The Dirty Dozen that has me concerned, anyway. My concern extends from the top down, not the concept up. It's the marketing: the front-and-centre appropriation of a key mental health discussion to brand, glamourize, and eventually fetishize a group of fictional patients of Arkham Asylum, itself a troublesome holdover from a different era of the conversation about mental health.

Marketing is built to glamourize; and comic book movie fanbases are built to fetishize. Comic Con will go nuts for this thing. There will be people walking around major cities in broad daylight in costumes of the Suicide Squad in the summer of 2016. There will be a special-edition blu-ray of the movie that comes in the Joker's head, or something, sitting on peoples' mantles the following year. There will be a lot of young people (and not so young people) who will enter the world of the suicide-mission team movie for the first time, via Suicide Squad.

Do you think there will also be a robust and contextual conversation about suicide, addiction, mental health, and the consequences of self-harm to go along with the bus-shelter posters of Harley Quinn and the Joker?

Does there need to be? Am I taking this too far, pinning too much on one word, one movie, one brand? Certainly. Suicide Squad is just one example of all of those things. And the property is wholly unseen at this point, save for a bit of casting in the past few weeks. I know next to nothing about who this movie is being designed to serve, and my fears about its content and presentation are based on DC's (and, let's face it, Hollywood's) track record to date, and the more recent run of the Suicide Squad comics, which are the only ones I've read.

For all I know, it will be the most sensitive comic-book blockbuster ever made, and will shatter stereotypes about mental health left and right, while Will Smooth shoots people or something. I can hope.

But I look at that lineup - Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Boomerang, the Enchantress - and I can't help but align it to the vacuum of moral responsibility that creates blockbuster events like Man of Steel, for example, and then wonders why people had a problem with that film's ending. I see all the furor around Jared Leto getting cast as the Joker and I can't help but cast my mind back to the other Joker, and the mushroom cloud of imagery - some intentional, and quite a bit not - he represents.

This will be the first movie to tackle the pop cultural problem of the post-Heath Ledger Joker. The horrific circumstances surrounding Ledger's version of the character - from Ledger's death by drug overdose to his posthumous Oscar to the shootings in Aurora four years later - catalyzed what would already have been an iconic performance in the history of genre movies. They layered freight and meaning onto a characterization already deftly, and frustratingly, suggestive in its intent: a whirling soup of provocative text and meta-text on subjects from terrorism to fair-market economics. And, of course, insanity.

The Joker is too potent (read: lucrative) an icon for DC to ever consider leaving him on the shelf, but his emergence in a post-Ledger, post-Aurora world is loaded with complexity regardless. Just in this past year, the public conversation around gun violence, suicide, addiction, mental health and celebrity culture has been crucially, brutally advanced. Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman have both died in 2014 (both, coincidentally, have been linked to rumoured roles playing Batman villains over the course of their career). Both have died by their own hand, in public, in front of us, just like Ledger did six months before The Dark Knight was released. These men are all lodestones in the conspiracy of silence around the issues that took their lives.

Do I want to see a movie called Suicide Squad? No, not particularly. Not if it's part of the ongoing effort to slough off the real, complex, and dangerous meaning of the word suicide and transform it further into yet another brand for enviable badassery. I don't find it enviable. I don't find it badass.

See the thing is, as horrible as this year has been on at least three major cultural and socio-political fronts, I believe we are moving the needle on all of them. Mental health issues are one of those fronts. It may be a war of inches at this point, but they're inches I believe in. This would be a great time for more responsible dialogue. Suicide Squad, I fear, isn't it.


Destroy All Monsters is a weekly column on Hollywood and pop culture. Matt Brown is in Toronto and on twitter.

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dumbfoundedatOPDecember 10, 2014 10:47 AM

Nice Post!!!!1! Will read again! +1
I didnt know Twitch hired high school girls to write articles. Because I havent heard this much garbage since then. You need to enjoy life instead of trying to be everyone's helicopter parent. Its a freaking word and happens to be the title of a comic book.
'Hey I know lets change the word to self inflicted death squad! Your right that is badass!'

Todd BrownDecember 10, 2014 11:05 AM

Oh, look, inarticulate sexism and poorly executed sarcasm. The internet FTW ...

dumbfoundedatOPDecember 10, 2014 11:11 AM

it got you to reply so id say it was successful :) more drivel

ZetoDecember 10, 2014 11:38 AM

That's why DC were always better than Marvel.

João Pedro MechelliDecember 10, 2014 12:18 PM

I never read so much garbage and nonsense. Sorry, but this text dos not belong here, belong at Worriedmothers.com

GuestDecember 10, 2014 12:43 PM

get real geeky, TECHNICALLY they were at one time referred to as Task Force X, which was a "suicide squad". Somewhere along the line it just became Suicide Squad, probably because it was flashier and drew more attention.

YeahAboutThatDecember 10, 2014 1:21 PM

This whole article is rather silly. Should I conclude that the title of this column somehow advocates the genocide of monsters? If I refer to my son as a little monster would you want to destroy him too?

I would craft a serious response about this, but the Ancient Aliens guy just keeps flashing in my head.

benuDecember 10, 2014 2:45 PM

Matt, while one of your major approaches has always been of a direct, pointed variety, this may very well be your most concise piece at Twitch to date. Your concern is legit. It matters. These films color the cultural picture somehow or another, and DC's choices in this new era have been... disconcerting at the very least, and terrifyingly hollow and inhumane at the most extreme angle. Thanks for bringing weighted concern to all this.

Mr. CavinDecember 10, 2014 3:59 PM

Great points; and points I believe I'm sensing might have never been detected by the usual crowd. I have felt awkward over the moral turpetude of the DC cinematic universe since 1989 (wait. Did Batman just kill all the thugs by dropping a bunch of Batmobile grenades and driving off?), and it has in no way lessened after the latest entries (wait. Did Green Arrow just murder everyone in that hallway so he could recite a twenty-four hour ultimatum and jump out a window?). It is almost as if the creative machine driving this behemoth thinks that having ostensible heroes (white) do terrible things (black) will lead to a patina of complexity (gray) that might, in turn, slake the target audience's thirst for being taken seriously. The proposed movie (and I guess the comic of the same name?) seems to be taking the opposite route to the same conclusion. I believe I'm sensing that the target audience is amassing its disposable income anyway.

Me? I'm just fucking tired of mean cops. Maybe give me a little while.

Meanwhile, I'm also annoyed that DC is rather transparently rolling up its sleeves to answer Guardians of the Galaxy now that the way seems safe. Go DC! WE'RE NUMBER TWO!

GarthDDecember 10, 2014 4:00 PM

Equating the Suicide Squad and Guardians of the Galaxy is a pretty big stretch.

GarthDDecember 10, 2014 4:12 PM

So don't see it then. Nobody is holding a gun to you head.

Oops, I hope that figure of speech didn't offend you!

infamouscrimesDecember 10, 2014 4:17 PM

Who cares? It's a movie. Our society doesn't even talk about suicide so if this makes that happen in any way it's good.

curtvileDecember 10, 2014 4:17 PM

Look I get your point, as during past year alone I have personally lost two good friends and three of my mates to suicide. Hanging, hanging, slashed wrists, dive from roof, gun.
You may lead on guns US, we Finns lead you on suicide.
It is an important issue.
But I also am a film and a comicbook geek and have been both for almost 4 decades now.

The comic Suicide Squad deserves a movie named Suicide Squad.

Because it portrays the forced villains as criminals and mental cases...and all the more human for that.
Say what you will but it had one of the best portrayals of Harley Quinn, making her not just funny Joker's damaged sex kitten but more of a real person. Yes obviously unstable person, but not a mere character. It broke veil of madness made it more understandable, not necessarily acceptable, but relatable part of human experience. Making her bad-ass, because she still manages to survive daily existence despite of her delusions. The mortal dangers of her field are of lesser importance.

I do get it you are worried that it will banalize word suicide, glorify it. As you may or may not know (Yes,you said you read the latest run , but I am just not counting on your levels of literacy or comprehension) this is part of why the comic has power: suicide is not their option, not their choice.
The government forces them in similar fashion akin of Snake Plissken from Carpenter's Escape From New York:
Do the mission or die.
not by coercion, by planted bombs or poisons and the antidote is given only if mission is accomplished (that phrase is familiar "mission accomplished" wonder where...) they have done bad things but what is done to them is unacceptable.
They are viewed as victims.

See Suicide Squad is about wanting to live and occasionally failing that. It has subtlety of sledge hammer when it comes to politics or accepting Status quo. It forces you to accept that even villains have right to live, to choose.

Not to be disposable.
But maybe handling things like privilege, racism, governmental misconducts of power, dividing people to classes or showing there is a chance to grow and change your mistakes are a bit much to handle in movies even as subtexts?

Of course the movie may screw it all up. Comics are better than movies based on them. And not just those by DC Warner bros lot. I am yet to see movie based on a comic better than the comic itself. Including Cronenberg's History of Violence which is more of cliff's notes to idiot compared to graphic novel it is based beyond the 1:1 parts lifted directly from the comic

And I want to see it named Suicide squad. If for nothing else then for the fact that it pisses off those hypocrites who have not been again and again on funerals of their dead friends, friends they have tried to help time and time again, failed attempt after failed attempt until they got it right.
Not to sound condescending but coming from viewpoint of someone who has had loads of contact with the issue at hand: your horse looks mighty high.

Look, I live in Finland, Europe and most people here who view themselves as any sense intelligent see the US and americans as if Team America were a straight deadpan documentary.

Reading this I find myself finally agreeing with them.
It does you world of good to have the word SUICIDE plastered everywhere. in United states
To remind you lot that it IS something that actually happens and not everything needs to be sedated into happiness, hushed down politely

But then again for the frail US All You Need Is Kill had to be renamed Edge of Tomorrow.
And it needed a new sugarcoated ending instead of original.

Personally I abhor more the arthouse movies that try to tackle this difficult subject matter but fail utterly and miserably in execution of it.

In a fashion more than a bit like this article.
I would love to be able to say it did what some comics, outwardly about monsters and superhumans or aliens, did: touched me, made me think and re-evaluate my views on hard subjects, to see what people tackle with, see that other people struggle with them like me along with hardships I was previously unaware of.

Instead it made me, quite possibly falsely, feel rage over that someone who has not felt the real anguish of losing a dear friend to suicide and cried their eyes out because of it, is lecturing me about it in a patronizing manner.

So yes, what I felt reading that was bluntly put more like a black man being told by white man what racism is and what Ferguson is really about.

I see your point but really, while your heart was in a right place: using some of your mind would really have helped.

Matt BrownDecember 10, 2014 4:17 PM

Hmmm... interesting point. I had not considered the genocidal implications of my feelings re: monsters.

Matt BrownDecember 10, 2014 4:18 PM

Thank you benu!

Matt BrownDecember 10, 2014 4:18 PM

Not in DC's shareholder meetings.

Matt BrownDecember 10, 2014 4:19 PM

Maybe they can change the name of the movie to Task Force X?

Mr. CavinDecember 10, 2014 4:32 PM

Yeah, I see that might be the case when it comes to the books. Caveat: I've never read either, so I wouldn't really know. But from a distance, for the wider market view, I seem to be seeing quirky, more experimental group action. A "getting funky with it" move calibrated to DC's rather more self-conscious ideas of what getting funky might mean. That's where it pairs nicely with Guardians. I didn't mean to indicate that there's going to be hilarious computer-animated plant and animal characters or anything like that.

Mr. CavinDecember 10, 2014 4:36 PM

thus this article! It's the very first good the movie has done so far. Bravo vindication!

Sonny HooperDecember 10, 2014 4:59 PM

Lighten up, Francis. You're essentially arguing that the word "suicide" can and should only be used in discussions of a serious nature around suicide and mental health. Speaking as someone with more than a passing knowledge and understanding of both issues, you're making something out of nothing. Sure, more responsible dialogue is needed, but as long as this comic book movie about people in funny costumes isn't advocating in favour of suicide, it shouldn't be a concern.

aleksandarWH7 .December 10, 2014 6:55 PM

Oh my good, my beloved Twitch is becoming PC hell-hole... Uninspired, unimaginative worms that write unnecessary tirades like this... Destroy-All-Monsters is worst thing that happened to Twitch ever, cheap attention whoring riding on the wings of PC plague...

Carson PriceDecember 10, 2014 7:03 PM

Eat me, Prole.

Matt BrownDecember 10, 2014 7:24 PM

Dammit! I miss all the interesting comments!

Matt BrownDecember 10, 2014 7:25 PM

Who's Francis?

Matt BrownDecember 10, 2014 7:25 PM

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

Matt BrownDecember 10, 2014 7:26 PM

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

Matt BrownDecember 10, 2014 7:26 PM

Who's Prole?

Sonny HooperDecember 10, 2014 7:38 PM

Someone who writes about movies for a living should know this.

http://youtu.be/syV2LkGpQB0

noodels2December 10, 2014 7:42 PM

So many movies that have a lot more you could complain about are talked about on this site every day. Why this one ? Mental Health ? What about all the horror movies that portray "crazy" people killing people and such. Why is that ok? Dued if your going to watch these types of movies then this pg-13 movie should not be the one to complain about.

CutshawDecember 10, 2014 7:59 PM

Your article poses some interesting arguments, though unfortunately I don't find the central theme to be particularly valid. The term 'suicide mission' has long been used and culturally has never been meant in the same light as the taking of one's own life due to factors such as depression or mental illness. It's a concept that has its own long ingrained place in the lexicon, for better or worse, I think the context in which the comic book/movie uses it is quite clear. So to question the existence of the piece on those grounds is tenuous at best. I don't think the release of this movie will in any way belittle efforts to sustain a constructive dialogue on the subject of mental illness and how it is treated by society.

However, even by DC's increasingly embarrassingly standards I do find the whole thing to be of extremely questionable judgement. In their woefully scattershot approach to throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the audience in an attempt to catch up to Marvel's 6 year head start, someone seems to have callously overlooked the fact that a movie about a group of villainous anti-heroes (including the Joker, most pointedly) on a suicide mission might leave a somewhat sour taste. Whether justified or not, the perception of a connection between Batman and Aurora has to be recognized and treated with at least some tact, and this is almost a textbook example of how not to do that.

In isolation I think this may well turn out to be an extremely enjoyable movie, Ayer and the cast certainly make it by far the most intriguing of DC's upcoming product spewage (truth be told it's the only one that's piqued my interest at all). But I do agree the taste is debatable.

costelasDecember 11, 2014 12:23 AM

In a society where 12 year-old kids get bullied till suicide, I'd say you've got a valid point.

Manimal AutomanDecember 11, 2014 2:58 AM

GTFOutta here dude. Are you kidding me? Twitch has become the absolute worst. What next no title with 'kill' in it? 12 Years a Slave offensive to you? As someone else mentioned you don't care about how others may take 'Destroy All Monsters'? Is that offensive? Should we stop and think and have a long dialogue about why you should be allowed to use that phrase, or why you shouldn't, what it means, how it can be interpreted? This is PC rubbish. Censoring words and forced protection does nothing constructive and just leads to horrible, horrible things. I have lost more than 1 friend to suicide and have/do suffer depression and have been very close to the edge myself and I find nothing even slightly offensive about Suicide Squad. Suicide like many words is contextual. Suicide and self harm is a huge issue but it has nothing to do with Suicide Squad. Nothing. They couldn't be further from each other. This article is idiotic and I can't believe I'm seeing it here on Twitch.

ToryKDecember 11, 2014 4:53 AM

Eh, as a survivor of a suicide attempt, I don't find the title offensive at all. It's pulp, and it comes with a pulp title. I can just hear the Grindhouse trailer guy going through the roster and then WABAM!, "are...The Suicide Squad!" You made a well-written point, but there aren't any hurt feelings here.

noodels2December 11, 2014 8:30 AM

oh wow

Christopher M MorrisonDecember 11, 2014 9:54 AM

Well said. Ignore the cavalcade of douchery that will inevitably get thrown your way in the form of the ever popular dude derailment that cries, "ACK! Serious thought put into word form -- KILL IT!!"

HeijoshinDecember 11, 2014 4:44 PM

I was reading this post and loving it, thinking that I didn't even need to post anything, Just up vote you but then I got down to the last quarter.

I do not agree with a lot of American Policy coming out of the government that has been put out there over the last 10 years but as an American I can promise you that the view that you have seen is not representative of the heart of our country nor is the beliefs of the majority of the people that live here.

I do not like the Chinese government. I think its very corrupt and oppressive. However, I love the Chinese people. They are truly wonderful and have a rich culture. The government and the government control media is not representative of the people underneath that representation. The same would go for North Korea and the same applies to America. This Government and its decisions are not a direct reflection of its people even though it is supposed to be that way. Not anymore. Further more, the media touts the minority's opinion as the popular opinion confusing people as to what the majority of America actually feels and believes. We are good people at heart, just like everyone else on the planet.

Also our racism issue is both far more complex and simple at the same time then what is portrayed. The issue is more of a non issue in real life, day to day activities with most people. The simplicity is that the issue is no where near what the reality is and the complexity is the way that racism is used to promote other agendas. What Ferguson is about is not really what Ferguson is about. The incident has been hijacked and is being turned into something that it wasn't and that is being used as a banner to push other agendas. I'm not saying racism doesn't exist. It does. EVERYWHERE. But the level and intensity of it that is portrayed as the reality of what it is in America is far from the truth.

I know that there might be some people that disagree whole heartedly with my statements. All I can say is the government does not represent my beliefs or those of my friends or family and what I hear people saying about me and my loved ones is the furtherst thing from the truth.

I'm not going to argue with anyone on this forum about this particular post that I've written. It is both my opinion and my belief based on my personal experience. For anyone who disagrees, you absolutely have your right to your own opinion, just as much as I do.

Todd BrownDecember 11, 2014 5:09 PM

Lead singer of The Pixies, of course.

Darren MurrayDecember 11, 2014 8:31 PM

Above this article there is a trailer for Mad Max. So should we then change the name of that because of the connotations the word mad has. Better not upset anybody that has a mental illness and just call it Max. Article is a load of nonsense for what is essentially going to a silly popcorn flick

Matteo ZuffoliniDecember 12, 2014 6:52 AM

Great article, Matt! Tell it to all those rudes who cannot wipe with the three seashells. Joy-joy to everyone!

darklevin158December 24, 2014 6:17 PM

Okay, so lets call the movie task force x then, problem solved. Everyone is happy. Pffft what a dumb article

loganJuly 16, 2015 10:14 PM

Its a movie about villains who go on dangerous deadly missions. So its basically suicide for them. What do you expect them to call it? Death by choice?