The Suicide Squad: Why Polka-Dot Man Is Empowering - VRGyani News and Media

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Suicide Squad: Why Polka-Dot Man Is Empowering

I'm not the first nor the last person to say that life can feel pretty unfair sometimes. It often seems like everything wrong that could possibly happen is piling up all at once, and it's a very stressful feeling to have. This feeling of mounting stress and anxiety is often explored in superhero media, as with great power comes great responsibility. However, good or evil, most superhumans don't have an interdimensional virus that could cause your body to explode if not properly treated. A power like that becomes more of a burden you want to get rid of by all means necessary. The Suicide Squad is how we meet such a superhuman in Abner Krill (David Dastmalchian), also known as Polka-Dot Man.

When Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) is finished briefing the second half of the titular squad about their mission on the island of Corto Maltese, he not-so-subtly says that he hopes the team dies in the process. Think of it this way; if King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) is supposed to be your friend, then Polka-Dot Man is the kid who eats lunch alone and reluctantly gets paired up with you for a school project. He is also a character I was initially embarrassed to admit resonated with me a lot, in more ways than one.

RELATED: Michael Keaton Describes the First Shot of Batman in 'The Flash': "Whoa, This Is Big"Let me explain a bit. The audience's first glimpse of Krill is of a duo of Belle Rev security guards unlatching a massive power inhibitor off his neck. Considering how unintimidating and non-threatening he looks, what could possibly warrant such high-level security? Well, he hosts an unknown virus that gradually forms glowing balls of acidic puss across his entire body. The only backstory we get is that his scientist mother (Lynne Ashe) experimented on him and his siblings, condemning them for death or lifelong torment. He can only expel the virus by manifesting it into his signature polka-dot bombs or by vomiting them up.

So, how exactly do I relate to this? Since birth, I have had a severe case of atopic dermatitis, usually known by the less cool name eczema. Couple this with the fact that I do not have the protective skin layer known as the epidermis, and you've got a recipe for a miserable time. I found myself getting rashes and outbreaks from almost everything I came into contact with, from grass to jeans, and it seemed like no remedies could help. Trust me; we tried everything we possibly could to curb my outbreaks, and it wasn't until I became an adult where I was finally given some relief.

However, it seemed as if I had gone through hell and back beforehand. There were times where I was blistering so bad that it looked like I came out of a fire. I had to take many sick days from school because my skin had dried over my eyes while I was asleep. Speaking of which, I was often staying up until midnight, at least unable to control the itching and burning I was feeling all over. It seemed like every day I had to say "it doesn't feel as bad as it looks" and "no, I swear it's not contagious" and most commonly, "please stop staring at me or else I'm going to fucking scream." What probably outweighed the physical pain I felt was the mental anguish. Being gawked at and seen as a blemish simply because of something I couldn't yet control was incredibly damaging to my self-worth. Even now that I have insane amounts of medication that keep the worst of it under control, I still have trouble seeing past my dermatitis. Often, it feels like it still controls my entire life.

This pain is why Krill simply worked for me, even more so than the squad members who had more screentime and development. When you are dealing with a condition that dramatically affects how people perceive you on a (ahem) skin-deep level, of course, you're going to lose hope. Of course, you're not going to trust people when they say that you're worth to someone or a group of people. Krill perceives himself to be nothing more than his condition, realizing just how important he is despite it as the film progresses.

The relatability of his progression from insecurity to confidence is something echoed by Dastmalchian himself. In an interview with CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, he described his casting as Krill as "powerful and cathartic" due to his vitiligo. While certainly not as severe as his character's condition, vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder that forms discoloration on the skin. In a weird way, it’s kind of a relief knowing this. The parallel between the polka-dots and skin disorders is something that was actively integrated into the film and not something I drew out on my own. I often question whether or not I’m overexaggerating the effects that having such severe eczema has. The thought that, maybe, I was making things worse for myself often appears in my brain. However, the fact of the matter is that I have a weird body, something that Dastmalchian experiences and takes pride in.

If Krill could suppress his condition with a power inhibitor, I manage mine with a regime of steroid cream and injection shots. That doesn't mean I still don't sometimes get polka-dots of my own. Hell, I currently have a small patch of them on my left arm as I'm writing this. The fact of the matter is that, unlike the spotty hero, I was given a chance to find life and meaning outside of what my skin looked like. Let me tell you this; I'm never going to take it for granted.

I do wish that Krill's fate was a little kinder and that we got to see more of the impressive special effects used to bring his virus to life (seriously, you mean to tell me that a Troma protege like Gunn didn't want to indulge in that body horror?). That being said, I can't be disappointed in Krill's character or his plot progression. If I'm honest, it's probably because I have my own polka-dots that I carry with me every day. Life is pretty damn unfair at times, but isn't it how we handle this unfairness that truly defines us? Polka-Dot Man might not have made it to the end, but his impact will undoubtedly be felt.

KEEP READING: What 'The Suicide Squad' Gets Right About Harley Quinn



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