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Suicide Squad and cultural boganism

By Simon Caterson - posted Tuesday, 9 August 2016


The pejorative Australian and New Zealand term bogan is almost entirely unknown outside those countries though that may be about to change. Right now a distinctively bogan character is featured prominently in Suicide Squad, one of the most anticipated, if critically disparaged, Hollywood movies on global release.

As hardcore Star Wars fans know, in the realm of popular science fiction bogan is a word that appears with a very different connotation to the common Australasian meaning. Wookiepedia tells us that Bogan refers to the dark side of the Force, being derived from the name of one of the twin moons of Tython, the other moon, Ashla, representing the light side of the Force.

Bogan in the Australasian sense of the word has never before been asserted in the immensely popular world of American popular movie mythology. Included in the array of lurid misfits that constitute the Suicide Squad is the unmistakably Australian villain George ‘Digger’ Harkness, aka Captain Boomerang, a rapscallion bank robber played by Hollywood-based Sydney actor Jai Courtenay whose special skill is throwing deadly metal boomerangs.

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Wikipedia tells us that the original Captain Boomerang appeared in DC Comics’ The Flash in 1960, and has been killed off and revived in various series ever since appearing in different scenarios throughout the labyrinthine and arcane universe of American comics. The comic book world exists a bit like the pantheon of Greek gods, with the characters in various incarnations always fighting and loving each other and occasionally killing or mating with mere mortals. 

The Suicide Squad is a motley crew of villains, including The Joker, Harley Quinn (played as an American by Australian actress Margot Robbie) and Deadshot, whose members are unwillingly brought together by a rather duplicitous government official to save the world from some kind of “metahuman” menace.

In the film, Boomerang is as stereotypically Australian as Chato Santana (aka El Diablo) is a Latino gangbanger and Tatsu Yamashiro (aka Katana), a sword wielding Japanese female samurai. 

We learn from Boomerang’s back story, which in the film is presented briefly in flashback to the strains of AC/DC’s anthem ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’, that he is a crook who “has robbed every bank in Australia”. Having drained the nation’s coffers, he went to the US to try the same before being imprisoned for three life sentences.   

For all his gnarly bluff and bluster, Boomerang doesn’t have all that much to do in the film beyond drink cans of beer which mysteriously he can find even the middle of a shootout in an urban battleground, and call people mate. He looks both menacing and crazy in his trackie top and trench coat concealing the arsenal of deadly boomerangs.

A true bogan would have a mullet rather than a short back and sides, though who knows Boomerang may be wearing combat uggies. Boomerang plays rough and fights dirty, a bogan crim at the feral end of the scale. “Easy peasy” is his response in the face of the apparently insurmountable odds faced by the Suicide Squad.    

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In the lead up to the film’s release, Courtenay described in an interview with Slash Film how the character came fairly naturally to him:  “I do feel closer to this than anything else I’ve done from a performance perspective. It’s more of a character than anything I’ve had an opportunity to take on. But it’s actually closer to myself than any other role I’ve ever played.”

When asked why there was such synchronicity between an OTT comic book character and the real Jai, Courtenay replied with a certain kind of method-actor brio: “Because I’m a Bogan piece of s**t.” As part of his preparation for the role, Courtenay has in another interview with Empire been quoted as claiming to have taken drugs and engaged in self-harm.

Captain Boomerang is but one figure in the passing parade of characters that Suicide Squad showcases no doubt in order to propel the spin-offs and merchandising campaign that will ensue.

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About the Author

Simon Caterson is a freelance writer and the author of Hoax Nation: Australian Fakes and Frauds from Plato to Norma Khouri (Arcade).

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