Most of our characters are sociopaths: Addendum

I thought a continuation of my last post was in order because of a recent film I’d watched. The film in question is Suicide Squad with a whole plethora of sociopaths as their main set of characters. The first question the screenwriters no doubt asked themselves, was: how do we make normal, healthy-minded people relate to unrelatable monsters?

The answer: try to show their human side.

*Minor spoilers ahead*

The basis of the film’s premise is: a bunch of extreme criminals are forced to work together for a greater cause. Two of these characters are given extra attention, their backstory revealed in greater detail: Deadshot (played by Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (played by Margot Robbie).

Deadshot is a cold, merciless assassin, willing to kill with ease for the right amount of money. His human side is revelaed in him being a loving father of a daughter.
Harley Quinn is a complete lunatic, able to kill, maim and destroy with a smile and a jest. Her humanity is shown by her deep love for her reknowned lover, the Joker (played by Jared Leto).

Both characters are funny, witty and charismatic but that would not be enough to make the emphatic connection certain. Both of them needed their human sides to truly make the viewer bond with them.

The problem is, sociopaths do not form lasting relationships with people unless they are parasitic and/or abusive in nature. For these two characters to possess a human side is paradoxical. There is even a dialogue scene where this paradox is addressed by these very characters.

Harley: “You ever been in love?”
Deadshot: “Never.”
Harley: “Bullshit.”
Deadshot: “You don’t kill as many people as I’ve killed and still sleep like a kitten if you feel shit like love.”
Harley: “Another textbook sociopath.”

Exactly my point. These characters are textbook sociopaths but we need them to be human to sympathize with them. Quite the paradox. If these characters weren’t villains, the whole premise of the film is ruined. If these characters weren’t human, they would be worthless as characters.

Sometimes this can work. Countless stories include the ‘lovable rogue’, aka Robin Hood, a rebel against the authority of immoral people. But in this case it’s the rebelliousness that makes this character symphathetic. He/She is still a champion of the people, an altruist.

Characters of Suicide Squad are not champions of the people. They cause damage and kill people for their own amusement or gain. The only reason the audience wants to connect with them is because they are charismatic and funny. If the screenwriters didn’t employ the cheat (giving them a human side), this film probably wouldn’t have worked.