While Marvel fans have had a cornucopia of cinematic renderings of their comic book heroes available to choose from in the last fear years, DC’s output beyond the “men” (Batman, Superman and Spiderman) has been minimal. Given this, fans eagerly anticipated David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, released earlier this month.
Despite the title, the characters are in no way indicative of most suicide terrorism operations, and indeed perpetuate misinformation about the way such organisations operate.
To begin, the only historical occurrences of the use of a suicide terrorism campaign against its citizens (as Amanda Waller would be inciting against Clark Kent) have been by military dictatorships. Predominantly, suicide terrorism campaigns target, and have the most success in targeting, democracies.
This is largely due to the size of the respective target and the capacity for impact. The Squad, in comparison, is created to destroy an individual and uses their powers solely on an individual rather than institutional level.
The motivations of the squad members, explored in some detail, notably lack many of the attitudes fundamental to the perpetuation of a suicide terrorist.
These attitudes, including altruism, concerns with occupation of homeland, search for identity, or a sense that this is a “last resort” do not feature in the backstory given in the film and their motivations for joining the Squad are largely framed in terms of mental illness.
To date, there are no occurrences of mental illness leading to acts of suicide terrorism, and this is a dangerous mis-pathologisation.
Additionally, due to the inherent desire for impact against a what is seen as an oppressive or unfair regime, suicide terrorists are incredibly unlikely to switch targets at speed, as the Squad do, moving seamlessly from channelling their energy towards the theoretical threat of Superman to the localised threat of the Enchantress.
These flawed calculations show the members fundamental misunderstanding of the machinations of a suicide campaign, and as a result, the film’s presentation of their success is, frankly, dubious.