The first and last thing that the audience of the movie Suicide Squad should know is that Intelligence Operative Amanda Waller is one bad mujer (as opposed to hombre). It is imperative to the plot of the movie that the audience member regard this paper pushing bureaucrat in a pant suit(?) as an intimidating figure that warrants such respect from the most ruthless, murderers of our society that they are willing to do whatever they have to do to prevent her from being cross with them.
If you are not convinced that a bureaucrat –a character that is often depicted as a bumbling fool in so many other movies of this genre that the creators of this movie knew that they would have to continually shove the audience over this otherwise insurmountable hill– can be intimidating, you will be inundated by the characters in this movie informing you that they are intimidated by her.
Operative Waller is respectfully trumpeted as “The boss” by a ruthless, murderous character in one scene. The question that immediately comes to mind is, why does this ruthless, murderous character care what the institutional makeup of the hierarchy constructed against him is? If he is a ruthless bad guy, one would think his entire existence has been to thwart authority, regardless its makeup. Waller is then depicted (by the same ruthless, murderous character) as an intimidating leader who knows how to fire up the troops in another scene. Again, why does he care? He’s being informed that he is going to be forced on a mission that stands in direct opposition to his principles. One would think that his goal would be to thwart that mission, regardless who is delivering the steps of the mission to him. In a third scene, in which Waller enters a room shrouded by ominous music, another ruthless, murderous character asks her if she is the devil. Why a ruthless, murderous character would show such deference, respect, and intimidation to anyone, much less a paper pushing bureaucrat, is not explained. Yet, as the movie progresses, we learn that it’s germane to those of us in the audience that we know how powerful she is.
We then learn that Waller is not only respected and feared by “the worst of the worst”, but she is actually liked by them, as evidenced by one of the ruthless, murderous characters saying, “I like her.” This is the only scene in which the audience is left to infer that Waller has the type of powerful, bad ass leadership qualities that a ruthless, murderous character can appreciate. In the other scenes, the audience is pounded over the head with this idea so many times that it becomes almost laughably redundant.
I write the word idea, as opposed to fact, because as anyone who has ever attempted to write a story knows, a fictional fact can be established in the minds of an audience by showing that character in action. An idea, on the other hand, is transferred to the audience by having the characters tell the audience something. Those who have attempted to write novels or short stories, are informed that telling an audience something, as opposed to showing them, is a violation of the highest order, and in movies this is an even more severe violation since they have the luxury of being a purely visual vehicle through which they can convey facts. If the author is going to tell an audience something, as opposed to show, the audience might excuse that if the author uses that to build up to the scene that proves it as a fact. If there is only telling, the audience will still be left with notion that the characterization has not been proven.
There is one attempt to prove, or establish, the bona fides of the Waller character in a scene in which she whips out a machine gun and ruthlessly kills some of her employees, and the characters that surround her are shocked by this action, and one of them says something along the lines of, “I thought I was supposed to be the bad guy.” By this point, however, the movie has established the fact that these bad guys have ruthlessly killed so many men that one ruthless act should be considered relatively meaningless to them. We can guess that anyone, even a murderous thug, would be shocked to witness a bureaucrat taking out the office with a machine gun, but we might also think that a murderous thug would follow such shock by either laughing at a paper pushing bureaucrat’s attempt to appear intimidating, or they might find some sort of camaraderie with her after such an action. Neither is the case in this particular movie. They gain so much respect for her that they’re intimidated. It’s germane to the plot.
One could say that a portion of the fear, intimidation, and respect the ruthless, murderers have for Waller is based on the fact that she holds their lives in her hand, but since when do irrational, murderous thugs fear for their own lives, in the movies? Such characters are supposed to have an unusual disregard for their own lives. And since when do ruthless characters, purported to have no respect for anything, begin to respect anything or anyone? Some might suggest that everyone has a boss, and everyone respects someone. We might further suggest that even ruthless murderers have a hierarchy in their world, but these particular murderers have no respect for their more immediate authority figures. When it comes time for them to meet their ultimate authority figure, they have respect for her. It lacks consistency for the murderous thugs to loathe and disrespect all other authority figures except for her. They’re respect for her, we can only is infer, is that she’s a paper pushing bureaucrat in a pant suit. It’s germane to the plot.
My guess is that the actor that played Ms. Waller either did not inspire fear and respect in market testing, or the creative powers that put this movie together feared that the audience would have a tough time making the leap to a pant suit wearing bureaucrat engendering such intimidation from the ruthless, murderous bad guys (turned good guys! Surprise!! Spoiler Alert!!!) that they would do whatever she says. Whatever the case is, the actors that play the bad guys in the movie are forced to deliver stilted lines that suggest that they respect her more than any of the non-pant suit wearing contingent that attempt to take temporary leadership roles in the movie.
I understand that it is germane to the plot that these ruthless murderers go servile to a paper pushing bureaucrat, but in most movies any level of respect, fear, or intimidation a bad guy might feel for an ultimate authority figure is either unattainable for that authority figure, due to the ruthless, irrational nature of the bad guy, or it’s left unsaid and constantly rebelled against. Having never been around ruthless murderous types, I can only guess that the only time they concede to an authority figure, if ever, is after the authority figure has displayed unquestioned authority through action not words, or reputation. They, more than anyone else, I can only assume demand to see diligent and consistent atrocities greater than those they themselves do. At the conclusion of this movie, most of that is this is still left unsaid.
Most movies attempt to define the relationship between the bad guys and the ultimate authority figures that they fear, or hate, in the movie, as existing by means of a tenuous thread. This helps define the conflict of the movie, the relative nature of good versus evil, and further characterization for the characters involved in this conflict that is, for the most part left unsaid, with the action sequences saying more than lines of dialogue ever could. The place we’re currently in, at this point on the timeline of movie making, dictates that we place females in a position of power, and that more often than not those females be some sort of minority. The movie makers do this with a combination of bravado and insecurity, the latter being something they feel they have to compensate for with constant verbal references to the ultimate authority figure’s power, her ability, and the manner in which everyone that encounters her, backs down for no discernible reason, and they do so in a manner that ends up proving to be detrimental to the ruthless, irrational characteristics that they hoped to instill in the murderous characters. If we are going to continue to insist that females be in positions of power, in our movies, we are all going to have to agree that this can happen, and it is plausible, if for no other reason than to end this preoccupation movie makers have for establishing the idea that it can happen, and that it is plausible with tedious, redundant, over-the top characterizations that supplement what the movie makers must fear is a lack of whatever they think makes us believe is impossible regarding characters in their movies.