Let's be honest, getting a good representation of diversity in comic book films have always been a losing struggle. Part of the problem comes in the purist adaptations of iconic comic book characters because the majority of them were created in a time where there was no non-white representation in comic books. Because of that, we’ve had to suffer through all the white, heterosexual heroes/villains that not everyone can relate to. Remember when people of color were mostly portrayed as the villains or as some completely offensive stereotype? How about evil people being depicted as flamboyant or homosexual? When was the last time you saw a Latino person as either a hero or savior in a major film, comic book-based or otherwise? These are questions we should be asking, and luckily we've already received a response from the self-proclaimed "Worst Heroes Ever."
DC may be losing the battle in quality, but it is already winning with their representation of diversity considering where Marvel was in their early phases. Only recently has DC gone to greater lengths to try and diversify their all-white lineup of The Avengers by introducing more racial and gender diversity in their main Avengers and not just their supporting members. Even then, all that equates to is adding another white female and another Black man. The film with Marvel’s most diverse casting comes in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy since it has the likes of Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Benicio del Toro and Djimon Hounsou. This looks like a great lineup on, but the on-screen execution of it is really what counts. All of these fabulous actors were either turned into humanoid beings or just completely turned into something different, like a CGI tree entity.
When films do this, it almost feels like a cop-out. Yes, the actors in your cast are beyond diverse, but when you cover up their faces and bodies with prosthetic and body paint, then they aren’t able to represent their respective backgrounds. With the monumental diversity problem already facing Hollywood, this attempt may outwardly appear to be progressive, but it ultimately comes off patronizing. Luckily, we have a group of anti-heroes here to save/slay the day.
In a single film, Suicide Squad did what no other Marvel, DC or even comic book film has had the courage to do, and that's include a diverse representation of characters in one film. No just that, but this film also makes their minority characters more compelling than their white comrades. Deadshot is one of the emotional centers of the film, putting the “hero” in “anti-hero”. His story is centered around the need for redemption, not for his own piece of mind, but for his daughter. Will Smith balances the necessary mix of irreverent mercenary and caring father to deliver a funny and heartwarming performance. One of the biggest changes from the story’s canon was changing Deadshot’s race from white to black, and the story greatly benefited from it. Some would even say that he singlehandedly saved the film from being a complete bust, but you'll just have to wait for my review of the film later on.
The next fantastic performance came from Jay Hernandez as gang lord turned pacifist El Diablo. Latino representation in a hero/anti-hero role is about as rare as seeing Bigfoot riding on top of a unicorn while trying to beat the Loch Ness monster in a race around Atlantis. It's such a rare thing that I was starting to lose hope in it ever happening. Watching *Suicide Squad *changed that and I couldn't be happier. Not only did the film stay true to his origins, which could be seen as stereotypical even though they ring true for many Latinos growing up in the same one El Diablo did, but the film actually took more time to develop his story despite his supporting character status. His story was tragic and he swore a vow of pacifism because of his past, promising never to harm another person with his gift/curse. He breaks that vow only when he realizes that he needs to in order to save the world. If this film has any true hero, it would be El Diablo and his tale of redemption and surviving the hostile environment/neighborhood he was raised in. His is an important story and one that I think is worthy of a standalone film, so get on that DC and Warner Bros.
The next important and well-developed character is Amanda Waller, representing a strong female person of color in a position of authority. Her character is dynamic and her goals are clear. Her character is the embodiment of another group that is highly underrepresented in film and television. Women in a position of authority, like head of a company, organization or even country, are already few and very far between, but a women of color in those positions is rarer, verging on mythical. That has always been the social appeal Amanda Waller has had, especially when compared to her Marvel male equivalent, Nick Fury, who has mostly been portrayed as a white male up until recently. Seeing her come to life through the immensely talented Viola Davis does the character justice in an otherwise unjust cinematic world.
Other characters that are presented, but not as fleshed out (yet) in Suicide Squad include the incredible Katana (played by Asian actress Karen Fukuhara), the short-lived Slipknot (play by Native American actor Adam Beach), and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje playing the scaly Killer Croc. Ok, granted Killer Croc is an example of exactly what I'm talking against, but seeing him contrasted inside of richly diverse group makes my statement stronger. Every film franchise, especially comic book-based ones, need to take a page from the casting of Suicide Squad. This should be your new squad goals, especially since there are great, contemporary and racially diverse iterations of comic book characters that could be brought on screen instead of the original ones created during a time in history when equality was reserved only for other white men. Marvel has the biggest problem with this when they could just change it by introducing the Kamala Khan version of Ms Marvel or the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man. Simple fixes like this could enrich any franchise and create more representative role models for everyone. The Suicide Squad consists of villains becoming a force of good to save their world, but the film seems to be beacon of positive change that could permeate in ours.