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‘Toxic Masculinity at its Most Toxic’: John Cena Breaks Down Peacemaker

A new Suicide Squad featurette unpacks the psyche of Cena's vigilante.

john cena

James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad delivered one of the wildest ensemble of characters in the superhero genre. And few were more outrageous and hilarious than John Cena’s Peacemaker, a hyper-violent vigilante who will murder men, women, and children in the name of “keeping the peace.” Cena’s awkward, aggressive Peacemaker was such a standout that, despite dying in the film, was revived to star in his own HBO Max series, set to premiere in January 2022. But while stealing scenes in the film, we still know little about Peacemaker’s origin story and what makes him tick.

In a new behind the scenes featurette, Cena and Gunn unpack the man behind the toilet bowl mask and delve deeper into the psyche of Christopher Smith/Peacemaker.

Gunn says, “To me, Peacemaker is the saddest character in the whole thing. He has the most difficulty connecting to another human being because he doesn’t feel like he belongs.” This is evident in the film, as most of the squad gather around Bloodsport and Ratcatcher 2, while Peacemaker serves his own mission.

“We talked a lot about backstory, and James was like ‘Hey man, be like a douchey Captain America who would shoot a kid’, okay I got it,” said Cena. Gunn added that Peacemaker was inspired by many “dude bros” he grow up with, “like a lot of dude bros, he didn’t have a great father, didn’t have any mother,” defining him as “toxic masculinity at its most toxic.”

Gunn continued, “How sad is it that he feels like an outsider in any room that he sits in, that he is desperate to be dominant because he doesn’t feel like he belongs.” The idea of the controlling egomaniac as superhero has certainly been explored before (most recently in Amazon’s The Boys and Invincible), but Cena brings a tragic pathos behind his macho blustering. It also helps that he’s absolutely hilarious. “John Cena is the best improv artist I’ve ever worked with in my life,” remarked Gunn.

Cena said, “He’s socially awkward…something as simple as the uniform hits on the head that this guy’s got validation problems, … This man genuinely thinks he’s a hero and wants his Peacemaker logo on everything.”

If the Peacemaker series unpacks the toxic masculinity surrounding the character, it could make for a very exciting character arc that most comic book movies don’t explore. Cena, who delivered solid comedic cameos in Sisters and Trainwreck, has finally found his breakout role. And to think, had Cena hit the mainstage 10 or 20 years earlier, he would likely be playing a Peacemaker-type character sans irony or humor. We can’t wait to see what he does with Peacemaker the series.

In the meantime, you can join Peacemaker’s task force by calling the number below:

(image: Warner Bros.)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.