I like my women how I like my supervillains: strong, foul-mouthed, and super into hair-metal. Fortunately, this means that I have a new favorite super anti-hero in the form of John Cena‘s “Peacemaker.” The bloody, violent spin-off from James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad” centers on the breakout titular character, a hero-ish vigilante who strives for peace at any cost and typically to a fault. He’s also a massive fan of hair metal, the greatest and most under-appreciated genre of music in history. (I SAID WHAT I SAID!)
Music has always played a pivotal role in James Gunn’s filmography, with the soundtrack of each “Guardians of the Galaxy” movie serving as their own character. The same goes for “Peacemaker,” where hair metal is diegetically featured due to the character’s personal affinity for the genre. In a recent virtual press junket for the series, Gunn said:
“I think that is the music that speaks to Peacemaker’s spirit. He loves hair metal, but I also think it speaks to a lot of the things that his dad is not.”
Gunn wrote specific songs into the script, but the hair metal scattered throughout isn’t just to highlight the music and lyrical angst of a lost generation, but as an intentional act of rebellion and solace for the human being beneath the Peacemaker regalia, Christopher Smith.
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The “Peacemaker” series gives us insight into what has turned Christopher Smith into the peace-obsessed sorta-hero he is today, and a lot of his actions are in direct retaliation from his horrible, abusive, white-supremacist father. The music is one of the few things in Smith’s life that he can control, and there’s no better middle finger to conservatism than men wearing makeup and fetish gear writing songs that make women worship them like gods. Not to mention, hair metal is just f****** awesome. Gunn added:
“It’s androgynous. Peacemaker bringing home a Hanoi Rocks album with all the guys in the makeup and the fishnet stockings and everything else, or bringing home a Motley Crue album with a satanic symbol in the front are a direct affront to who his father is. So I feel like music is something that belongs to Peacemaker. As the series goes on, we see some of the reasons for why that’s the case.”
Smith grew up with a father that feels like the extreme inspiration for Mark Metcalf’s character in the Twisted Sister music videos, so it’s no wonder he gravitated toward hair metal. As Peacemaker admires a collection of hair metal albums in the first episode, he says, “This is back when men were real men because they weren’t afraid to be women.”
Why Gunn Chose The Music He Did
Gunn had a great time incorporating the ’70s AM pop hits throughout “Guardians” and wanted to do the same with “Peacemaker” by highlighting music we recognize but may not be as universally known. “I think that hair metal is something that has been completely forgotten or covered up for the most part… It wasn’t even my music,” Gunn said.
Some of the bands Gunn chose for the soundtrack include 80s hair staples, but also contemporary bands that have embraced the hair metal sound. In the first three episodes alone, we hear songs from Wig Wam, Foxy Shazam, Nashville Pussy, Y&T, The Poodles, The Quireboys, Tigertailz, The Cruel Intentions, Firehouse, Santa Cruz, Dust Bowl Jokies, BAND-MAID, Kissin’ Dynamite, Sister, and Bang Camaro.
“There’s a lot of modern sleaze rock from northern Europe that I think is far superior to the majority of the stuff from the 80s,” Gunn said. “They know exactly what they’re doing.” He continued by pointing out the differences between the bands, “It’s not pompous in any way, they don’t pretend to be serious,” he said. “So that’s why I wanted to use that type of music, and I felt like it was fun being able to build it into the very fabric of the story itself.”
I recognize that Gunn himself isn’t a huge hair metal guy, but it’s awesome to see him understand the allure of machismo music melding with gender non-conforming presentation. Hair metal gets unnecessarily dunked on, and it’s such a breath of fresh air to see a series embrace the camp complexities of a genre killed by grunge. As a kid who was dropped off at school everyday growing up in a car boasting the license plate “JOVI FAN 1,” the hair-metal inclusion of “Peacemaker” only adds to the long list of reasons why this show is so great.