‘Suicide Squad’ critics overlook outstanding diversity in casting

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 22 (UPI) — Despite its flaws, Warner Bros. and DC Comics’ latest epic Suicide Squad should be celebrated for its diversity.

The villain-focused ensemble picture, which has been trashed by critics with a 26 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has quietly given audiences probably the most diverse cast ever for a comic book film.

Quietly, because much like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice from March, the film is continually trashed in click-bait articles for its poor quality, messy plot, outrageous premise and choppy editing. It’s become a punching bag for critics who are perhaps exhausted from the onslaught of comic book adaptations.

What they’re missing is how Suicide Squad represents a step forward for Hollywood, which has struggled with diversity, most notably leading up to the 87th Academy Awards as the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign dominated headlines.

With standout performances by Will Smith (Deadshot), Margot Robbie (Harley Quinn) and Viola Davis (Amanda Waller), Suicide Squad is taking in a nice payday from the box office as minorities and women are coming out to support the film because they are finally being represented.

During the film’s record-breaking opening weekend, studio data according to Rotten Tomatoes showed that women and girls made up 46 percent of the audience, which is high for a comic book film; 35-40 percent is the average. African-American and Hispanic moviegoers, meanwhile, accounted for 39 percent of ticket sales, Deadline reported, close to the percentages Furious 7 posted in 2015. That movie also featured a diverse cast.

These numbers matter and should teach studios that diversifying can equal higher box-office takes. Expect Disney’s upcoming animated feature Moana to do the same big business as it features Polynesian main characters, one of which is a girl.

Suicide Squad having two African-American main characters — one male and one female — accompanied by another female protagonist, is unheard of in comic book films and in Hollywood in general. Its refreshing to see in the wake of studio blunders like Paramount’s casting of Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi, a role so clearly meant for an Asian actress in anime adaption Ghost in the Shell that it angered fans who spoke out about “whitewashing” in Hollywood.

While Suicide Squad and Batman v Superman have their issues, Warner Bros. and DC are leading the charge in terms of diversity. Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, will be the first female character-led comic book film in years and the first to come out during the superhero film renaissance that started in 2008 with the release of The Dark Knight and Iron Man.

It’s even more commendable when you compare DC to rival Marvel, which has only now gotten started on a female lead film, Captain Marvel, due in theaters in 2019. It’s worth noting that DC got a woman into her own solo adventure in four years time with the launch of its extended universe film slate in 2013, while Marvel’s launched in 2008.

Characters like Deadshot and Amanda Waller are more front and center than Marvel’s collection of African-American characters such as Falcon and War Machine who’ve been regulated to sidekick roles behind Captain America and Iron Man respectively. Thankfully, Black Panther introduced in Captain America: Civil War, was made to stand on his own and will be receiving his own solo film in 2018.

Still, for all it does right, Suicide Squad does have moments of racial stereotypes.

Killer Croc (Adewale AkinnuoyeAgbaje) delivers a cringe-worthy line, demanding to have BET broadcast in his cell. El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) is a walking Mexican stereotype from Los Angeles who speaks in slang.

The future now looks bright for featuring characters of different backgrounds and genders. Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Black Panther and a rumored Cyborg film will keep the momentum going.

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