If you are a human who uses Twitter in any way, you’ve probably noticed everyone losing their minds over Suicide Squad’s newly released character portraits, which includes the Joker, Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and The Enchantress.
Let’s talk about those last two, Harley Quinn and The Enchantress, because nuanced women in the superhero world are about as common as peaceful weddings on Game of Thrones, and Marvel and DC have a rivalry that’s mostly in the minds of the fans but it’s fun to puzzle over. Black Widow is the only Avenger who doesn’t have her own movie and was long absent from the Marvel Merchandise.
In an SNL spoof, actress Scarlett Johansson poked fun at superhero films’ inability to conceive of girl superheroes. “Does Marvel not know how to make a girl superhero movie?” the trailer asks at the beginning, before dissolving into a trailer envisioning Black Widow’s movie as a romantic comedy. “Marvel gets women,” it says, ending on the slogan, “Marvel: We Know Girls.”
Like Black Widow, DC’s The Enchantress and Harley Quinn are displaying a lot of skin in these pictures. And that’s fine if it’s true to their characters — they certainly don’t need to be Amish-looking superheroes. Thor is sexualized and often shown shirtless, but his character is literally a Nordic god. If we look at old images of Harley Quinn, she’s not wearing a skintight crop top and leather panties. Traditionally, the character wears a onesie.
It’s still sexy, but it’s not leather panties. The Enchantress, too, has worn a sexy outfit in the past, but it’s downright tame in comparison to Suicide Squad’s Enchantress. Check out what she looks like in the cartoon:
And sure, updating old versions of characters is cool, but to put it in the most ladylike way, focusing on making The Girl Hero sexy is fucking bullshit. It’s not as if people can’t still find them sexy in outfits that don’t look like they’re on their way to Coachella. Loki, after all, is one of the most sexualized characters in the superhero canon, starring in over 115,000 works of explicit fanfiction, and his helmet and cape don’t exactly showcase his body. Somehow, people found him sexy even if his parts weren’t on display.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily have bearing on their personality — maybe the Enchantress and Harley Quinn will blow Black Widow, Sue Storm, and all the other girl superheroes you can count on one hand out of the water. Maybe they’ll have personality and nuance and get to be the ones doing the skulking around and repelling from buildings instead of being the ones distracting the villains with a blowjob.
But for now, in the Marvel vs DC contest of “We know girls! Really!” nobody’s winning and it’s same old, same old. In fact, with the new Supergirl show on TV, Catwoman on Gotham, and Agent Carter, it looks like Suicide Squad is proving, once more, that even with superhero speed, the film industry is light years behind TV.