It’s eerie when fact mimics fiction. Take Suicide Squad. Following criminals who’re pressganged into missions that’ll get them killed, the idea’s not a popular one for the government’s top brass. It hasn’t gone over very well on this side of the screen, either. Once a media darling, DC’s latest movie is now a critical dud with just 27% on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes. Despite breaking records via a lucrative debut, it’s been savaged by reviewers who argue that the story doesn’t make much sense. Recruiting pyrotechnic ‘gang-bangers’ is logical if you’re taking on Superman-level threats, but a psychopath whose unique selling point is his boomerang? Although I enjoyed the result, that’s a stretch.
What isn’t so hard to buy into is a country weaponizing super-humans. In a world where people can fly or bend steel with their bare hands, national security becomes somewhat more complicated. As they point out in this film, we’re stuffed if someone like Superman decides to tear the White House’s roof off. Imagine that power in the hands of a terrorist. The result is carnage, and there’s not a damn thing we could do to stop it.
As such, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say these people would become the next arms race. I interviewed Psychology Teaching Fellow Ian Fairholm about this a couple of years ago (you can find the full article on GamesRadar), and he explained how superheroes would instantly become the most valuable resource out there.
‘If someone had the sort of powers we’re talking about (where they could level a city), political organisations and governments would get extremely jittery,’ he said. ‘You’re not just talking about a weapon, which to some extent is legislated… if a human being came out of the blue… who could be as destructive as a nuclear device, I think every government in the world would be panicking’.
He went on to theorize that they’d be very interested in rounding up such individuals. I suppose these people aren’t just an asset; they’re a deterrent. When your enemy has access to a superhero on the battlefield, you’re probably going to want your own.
I appreciate that this is a hypothetical argument. There’s a precedent for it, however. When World War II ended, the Americans decided they couldn’t let the Nazi brain-trust go to waste. Because of this, they took on hundreds of enemy scientists in an operation dubbed ‘Paperclip’. The idea was ‘to exploit German scientists for American research and to deny these intellectual resources to the Soviet Union’. Sound familiar?
This decision was kept top secret, and it’s easy to see why. Even if those Nazis helped the space programme become what it is today, employing them is morally ambiguous in the extreme. As you’d expect, the public were pretty upset once they found out.
Of course, those running Suicide Squad’s team don’t have to worry about our opinion. If things go bad, their operatives will get thrown under the bus. As Margot Robbie’s Harley puts it, they’re ‘bad guys. It’s what we do.’
With that in mind, I wonder whether fact will follow fiction again; after its shaky reception, should DC sweep this franchise under the rug?