Even before Warner Bros. released DC Comics' latest film adaption, Suicide Squad, the idea that Harley Quinn (who is featured prominently in the film) would be getting her own solo spin-off was widely circulated. When DC launched their "Rebirth" comic universe, Harley Quinn #1 was the best seller, with 360,000 copies shipped. Comic readers and movie goers alike love #HarleyQuinn, so her solo spin-off was both inevitable and welcomed.
On December 13th, David Ayer (#SuicideSquad director) announced he would be returning for Harley's sequel, and instead of a solo film, it would be an adaptation of the popular Gotham City Sirens comic series that ran from 2009-2011 during DC's Post-Crisis era. That series — for those of you who aren't familiar — was written by Harley's co-creator, Paul Dini, and featured she, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman working together as a team of anti-heroes, running Gotham City while Bruce Wayne was away after the events of the Hush series.
Harley & Ivy
But Sirens wasn't the first time Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy were depicted living as less-than-platonic roommates. Harley was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm as The Joker's female sidekick for the Batman: The Animated Series, a show that ran from 1992-1995 before it was continued under the name "The New Batman Adventures" from 1997-1999. Harley was intended as a cautionary tale for domestic abuse, as a woman that was so blinded by the intensity of her "love" for this man that she couldn't see how truly toxic the relationship was.
She was introduced in Season 1, Episode 7, "Joker's Favor", and from that point on, the abuse she suffered at the hands of her "Puddin'" became more and more obvious until Season 2, Episode 28 ("Harley and Ivy") where she is introduced to the fiercely independent Poison Ivy.
It was Ivy who first pointed out the harmful nature of Harley's relationship with Joker, and although Harley continued to fall victim to Joker's manipulation, she and Ivy's friendship endured. The two had instant chemistry, and the relationship between them became such a fan favorite that after The New Batman Adventures ended, Dini and Timm created a comic miniseries starring Harley and Ivy sans Joker.
"When Bruce and I did the Harley and Ivy miniseries, it was certainly implied that [Ivy and Harley] had a relationship with each other—they shared hugs and kisses. I didn’t want that to overpower what the story was, but the relationship between them is so natural." - Paul Dini
Harley and Ivy's romantic relationship was essentially the worst kept secret in comic books for some time, and to this day the way it was handled during the early years (normalized rather than admonished) is admired by current writers of the characters as well as LGBTQ fans.
"Exploring [the relationship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy] in the mid-1990s, it was really brave of the writers. I do think it’s a beautiful relationship. They’re two characters who really can relate in a lot of ways. Both damaged yet strong females—like, I think when you talk about Harley, all her damage is a power to her that’s undeniable. There’s a draw." - Adam Glass
Although Harley currently has multiple love interests, Ivy is her mainstay. As friends or as something more, they will always be in each other's lives. Their relationship is now as much a part of Ivy as her love of plants, and as much a part of Harley as her love of puns.
Although Suicide Squad didn't do as fantastic a job as some hoped communicating just how unhealthy the Harley/Joker relationship is, being that this next film is a Sirens adaption, it's more than fair to assume Ivy will serve as Harley's love interest (just as she did in the comic series of the same name). Sticking to the source material would mean a huge step forward in terms of LGBTQ representation in the superhero genre. Showing a loving relationship between two capable women — each with their own strengths and their own pitfalls — on the big screen, with the circulation and attention this film is likely to receive, could mean validation for not only LGBTQ comic fans, but also the characters themselves, who have survived multiple extremely unflattering depictions throughout their comic tenure.
But it seems the only characters treated worse in the comic book industry than women are gay characters. Their relationships are fetishized, called illegitimate (by both fans and writers), and regularly tossed aside in favor of (chemisty-less) heterosexual couplings (I'm looking at you, Red Tool... Mason...). It's been 25 years since Harley's creation, and she and Ivy have been in some form of romantic relationship for just about every one of them. I don't doubt a similar dynamic will be featured in some capacity in the upcoming Sirens film, my issue is how it will be handled.
Bury Your Gays
LGBTQ characters just aren't allowed to live happily ever after. It seems it's simply unheard of for characters participating in same-sex relationships to come to the end of a story fulfilled in any real sense. If they do manage to somehow defy the odds and "get the girl" (or guy) at some point in the story arc, it's extremely rare for both characters to make it out alive. Typically, it's the character who is more insistent or aggressive in pursuing the relationship that bites the dust. However, this trope isn't limited to just gay characters in relationships. Single "psycho lesbians" *cough* Ivy *cough* or "depraved homosexuals" also commonly fall victim.
In 2016, queer characters were killed off of Orange is The New Black, Wentworth, Masters of Sex, The 100, Pretty Little Liars, The Walking Dead... yes, dying is obviously a necessary plot device used in movies and television, and members of the LGBTQ community are just as mortal as the rest of us, but...
"The Bury your Gays trope is an issue because of this high discrepancy. While death and dying are a normal part of TV, it’s statistically confirmed that it happens at a far higher percentage to characters who are already underrepresented or misrepresented: LGBT, female or non-white characters." - DeserveBetter
So, why do I believe Poison Ivy will be another victim of this trope? Well, the last outward depiction of a same sex couple in a comic book film was in (correct me if I'm wrong) Watchmen (2009), and...spoiler alert...the trope endured.
And Ivy fits the pattern. She's a strong-willed, outspoken feminist, an — at times —ruthless villain, and is confident and secure in her sexual preferences. She loves Harley, plain and simple. She believes Joker to be bad for Harley. When Joker beats Harley, it's Ivy that she runs to. Ivy is "the corrupter" in their relationship. The "evil, crazy lesbian" who steals Harley away from her man.
But this movie won't be about Ivy, really (even though it should, as she's a positively fascinating character). This movie will be about Harley with Ivy and Catwoman as a backdrop. That's who DC is banking on: Harley. And people want to see Harley succeed. They want to see her be strong and independent. So maybe the "evil lesbian" angle isn't the one David Ayer uses when he kills Ivy. Maybe he casts her in a supportive light. Maybe nice guys don't finish last just this once. Maybe Poison Ivy actually gets the girl... and then maybe she gets killed anyway. Maybe her death is honorable, maybe she sacrifices herself.
After all, the last "mainstream" version of Poison Ivy we had was the one featured in the Arkham video games, in which she is cast as the martyr for Batman's cause. Audiences who aren't actually familiar with the character might not know Ivy is immortal, might not know her life force exists for as long as plant life does on this Earth. Heck, David Ayer might not even know that. So he'll use her as a stepping stone for Harley's independence. Ivy's death will inspire Harley to love herself as much as Ivy loved her.
Audiences will think it's sweet, this beautiful, powerful woman laying down her life for the only thing she loves more than plants: Harley. It will be a dramatic crescendo, culminating in a tearful "I love you" before the light fades from Ivy's eyes and Harley hugs the woman's lifeless form tight to her chest.
Meanwhile, DC will be wiping the sweat from its brow, celebrating the fact that they'll never have to deal with the wonderful dichotomy that is Poison Ivy again. That they're now free to pair Harley up with one of those aforementioned chemistry-less heterosexual love interests (Deadshot), all the while confused as to why the LGBT community is still complaining. "We gave you what you wanted!" They'll say. "An honorable death is its own reward."
...but we'll know the truth. Poison Ivy was buried along with all the other gays.
Of course, this isn't the outcome I'm rooting for. I would absolutely love to be proven wrong (and for the idea that homosexuality is just corrupted heterosexuality to die a slow, painful death). This theory is just in observation of the dominating trope surrounding LGBTQ representation in Hollywood.
For Harley, I expect Ivy will be that woman.