The Female Villains in “Assault on Arkham”
The new animated film “Assault on Arkham” is an edgy, fun, and light story compared to what you typically expect from a Batman movie. The animation is smooth, the music is good, and the voice acting is superb. It is loosely based on the Batman: Arkham Asylum game, which I haven’t played yet but now definitely plan on playing after watching this film! Even though this is a Batman movie, Batman’s role is minimal (and a tad mediocre). Instead it is the team of villains that take center stage. For those of you with kids at home this is something you should watch after putting the kids to bed. “Assault on Arkham” doesn’t shy away from depicting violence or sexual content.
The plot does not contain many surprises, but what makes this film worth watching is the character development of the villains. The suicide squad is comprised of the following baddies:
- Harley Quinn
- Killer Frost
- King Shark
- Captain Boomerang
- Black Spider
But of course, the squad wouldn’t exist without Amanda Waller. She rounds up the group with questionable methods, completely against their individuals wills, in order to serve her own vendetta against the Riddler. I’ve seen all the Batman live action movies, and even watched the animated TV show when I was a wee lass, but this was the first time I’d been introduced to this character. She is one tough cookie. Waller knows what she wants, and has the power and might to get it. I watched with frank admiration when she demonstrated her “don’t-f***-with-me-ness” to the Suicide Squad right out of the gate. One thing I had to wonder though was, why did she show so much cleavage? It doesn’t really make sense given her tough, business-like personality.
Of the three female speaking roles in the movie, my favorite is without a doubt Harley Quinn. Her maniacal, cotton candy over steel demeanor is legendary, and they showed this perfectly with her introductory scene. We see Harley sitting in a waiting room playing a video game. A woman walks up to her, interrupting her play, and Harley get’s even by ripping the woman’s ear off. See what I mean about the portrayal of violence?
I particularly liked a scene where Harley expresses her own sexual agency in requesting help with “an itch she can’t scratch” from one of the male villains. It was refreshing to see the encounter be initiated by her, as well as have the male character be momentarily unsure of whether he wants to sleep with her or not. Kudos to the writers for not succumbing to lazy misogynistic tropes that are so rampant in comic book culture! However, the hardest thing for me in this movie to watch were the allusions to the abusive relationship between Harley and the Joker, and the actual abuse the ends up taking place between them. I think the film did a good job not romanticizing their relationship and making the audience uncomfortable with the portrayal of the abuse. I was rooting for Harley and trying to send her mental messages to not reignite her feelings for this creep.
Last, but not least, is Killer Frost. In sharp contrast to Harley Quinn, Frost keeps a cool head (pun intended) and exudes confidence. Ironically, some of the cutest moments in the film come from watching a friendship grow between her and King Shark. Her skimpy outfit can be forgiven since it is only with her bare skin touching something that she is able to use her powers (although I am unsure why they gave her gloves). Similarly, Killer Frost is naked at one point because she is disguising herself (through the use of her powers) as a corpse being taken to the morgue in a body bag. Again, since this works given her unique powers and makes sense for the plot it can be forgiven. Female nudity does not necessarily mean that the woman is being objectified, and while I cannot speak for other women, this did not bother me or inhibit my enjoyment of the movie. Killer Frost and Harley Quinn both have definite sex appeal, but I did not feel they were objectified. Again, I speak from my own point of view only and welcome others to share their thoughts in the comments section.
At the end of the movie we get a short snippet of Poison Ivy (who I adored in elementary school because of the movie “Batman and Robin”) and I did find her costume problematic. It was skimpy and overflowing if you know what I mean, and I don’t really think there is a good reason why. Why wouldn’t she be wearing the garb the other prisoner’s wore? In my opinion, if the prison clothing isn’t an option, it would make the most sense if Poison Ivy simply walked around in the nude. And I don’t mean vines strategically placed nude. What need does Poison Ivy have for clothing? She is not quite human any longer and is in touch with nature to the point I don’t think she would have any qualms with breaking that taboo. However, I was reminded of a blog post on Emma Frosts’s costume that I thought would be appropriate to link to here that discusses another way of looking at costumes in comic books.
In conclusion, Assault on Arkham does an overall good job in their portrayal of women. It passes the Bechdel test and gave us some pretty awesome villains to root for. I enjoyed the movie despite the few problems I mentioned, and I do recommend it to other Batman fans.