When I saw The Suicide Squad, I felt seen through the character of Abner Krill aka Polka-Dot Man, played wonderfully by David Dastmalchian. I felt like my anxiety was represented in a way that made me love myself and come to terms with my past issues and the ones I have yet to overcome.
When we see Abner sit in the briefing room, feeling so far from anyone else in the room and barely speaking, I was reminded of myself. I never felt like I fit into any group, even the ones that I considered my friends. I always knew I was a ‘school’ friend, and the rest of the group hung out as real friends. When I sat in my elementary, middle, high school, and even some college classrooms, I never spoke. This changed when I transferred universities and continued into grad school. I felt like I finally belonged somewhere.
In elementary school, I was put in a special reading class because my teacher thought I couldn’t read. I could. I read full chapter books at home. I just didn’t want to read for my teacher. Granted, she was calling me by my sister’s name.
Seeing Abner sit awkwardly, not saying anything until he felt like maybe he could get a single word in – and it was one reflecting on his feelings of not belonging and depression – I related.
Growing up, I was the quiet one in a loud Italian family. When I had something to say, I never had the courage to speak until everyone else was quiet. I always felt like an imposition, like what I had to say was not good enough. By the time I did speak, it was deemed random because it related to something that was said way earlier in the conversation.
Abner’s awkward 'Yeah’ when everyone was talking to the Thinker on the roof especially resonated with me. Abner wanted to be included and found a way into the conversation, no matter how small or awkward.
There were many conversations in my life where all I could get in was a simple 'yeah’. I wanted to be in the conversation, but could never find a way to do that. The times when I did, my responses either came too late, or they were not heard because I spoke in an almost inaudibly soft and quiet tone.
Feeling like I can be part of a conversation has gotten better over the years for me, and as I watched The Suicide Squad, I could feel Abner becoming more comfortable with his newfound friends, allowing himself to speak and let his feelings be known to those around him.
Seeing Abner let his interdimensional virus get to the point of danger multiple times had me thinking back to the times I have felt like my needs are an imposition to those around me.
I viewed this as Abner feeling like he could not expel his dots in front of others, and I related it to my own issues of feeling like what I need is not as important as what others need. I often rejected food and drinks when people offered. If I needed to use the bathroom, I waited until the last possible moment before saying anything. I would go days without showering when I wasn’t in my own space, not wanting to be in the way, even when I know I wouldn’t have been.
If I was Abner in the jungle, I would have held the dots in until I could no longer bare it if I had even the inkling that it would be an imposition to anyone else.
When asked if I want to do something, my answer had always been a variation of 'If it works for you’. I had a hard time answering any question with a definite answer. My sister always told me saying, “I’m fine” does not work as a yes or no answer. But it was my way of not upsetting anyone. I spent so long worrying that every one of my decisions would not upset a single person, that I lost sight of actually accepting my own needs. Watching Abner get so close to death helped me accept my own anxiety and realize that I need to be able to put myself first some of the time.
Throughout my life, I have apologized more than anyone else I know. Watching Abner apologize for his powers being too flamboyant brought back memories of all the times I have apologized excessively. I apologize for needing to stop to use the bathroom during a road trip, sending too many messages in a row, making someone watch a specific movie or tv show, and most ridiculously and often, I would apologize when someone else ran into me.
As Abner apologized, inside my head, I said, “you don’t need to.” This is advice I am finally taking myself. I never quite understood why my family and friends told me to not apologize so often, but seeing this and seeing Cleo’s encouraging response to Abner made me understand and accept that I can change.
Watching David Dastmalchian bring Polka-Dot Man to life in The Suicide Squad was a blessing. When I saw someone with similar issues to ones I have faced in the past – and am actively working on within myself – be heroic, I knew I too can be a superhero.