As Harley Quinn grows in popularity, misconceptions regarding her continue to thrive. From claiming that she lacks intelligence to being called a slutty clown (enough with that one, please), I think we've heard it all. I've even noticed comments that say, "Isn't Harley being abused the reason we like her?"
All of this is due to the damaging portrayals of her that have perpetuated since her inception.
#GothamCitySirens will be Harley's second live-action appearance as a main character. This movie gives the #DCEU another chance to exemplify the character's true strength in all the right ways. Now, let's look at how Harley has been depicted over the years, and how she can finally reach improvement.
The Origin Of Harley Quinn
Yes, a story most of us are familiar with, but needs to be recapped here. This was told in 1994's one-shot comic, The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, and was later adapted into an episode of The New Batman Adventures. Dr. Harleen Quinzel received a psychiatry internship at Arkham Asylum. While researching its inmates, she became enthralled by one person in particular: the Joker.
After pleading the Doctors at Arkham for three months, she was finally granted a session with him. Instead of believing the "rumors" about him, Harleen went in with open eyes, ready to hear his darkest secrets. The Joker shared a story of how he aimed to make his father smile, but was beaten as a result. After learning about his troubled childhood, Harleen didn't see a villain in him.
One day when the Joker escaped, Harleen became a nervous wreck. Batman brought him back to Arkham beaten and bruised, and she went into a state of fury. She fled to find the perfect clown costume and returned to the asylum, but not as the innocent girl we met her as.
From then on, Harley continued her life as the Joker's sidekick. She lived a life of crime and endured the abuse that her lover inflicted on her. The Joker's mistreatment of Harley continued on into her first solo comic series in 2000.
Why Do People Want The Joker And Harley Together?
While watching Batman: The Animated Series, I couldn't help but notice how dark Harley's life was. She was attached to the Joker, following his every command while suffering physical and emotional torment relentlessly. Harley never had a voice; having an opinion was against Mr. J's rules.
But nonetheless, she was still madly in love and couldn't bear the thought of losing him. It is clear that she suffers a severe case of Stockholm syndrome.
So, why do people love the Joker and Harley as a couple? Initially, the Joker is insanely popular. Jared Leto even said that he is "probably better known than the devil." Fans are curious to learn more about him, besides his goal of making Batman's life a living hell. His relationship with Harley uncovers an additional perspective to his character: Could the Joker really love anyone?
But deep down, they are not the perfect fit they appear to be on the outside.
Meet The New And Improved Harley Quinn (Kind Of)
In 2014, the New 52 gave us the Harley that we deserve. Away from Gotham and residing in Coney Island, she has successfully rebuilt her life and found independence. She even received a slightly revamped origin, but unlike Mad Love, she actually found herself. Instead of being portrayed as a victim, she became a symbol of hope and strength.
These comics led into her current Rebirth series that began in August. Though she has had plenty of wild adventures so far, I feel as if we're losing who this character grew to become. In Harley Quinn #8, we witnessed the devastating breakup of her and Poison Ivy. I was extremely disappointed by this; Harley is currently without her closest source of love and support. Not only was she crushed by the situation, she now has room to think about what life would be like if the Joker was her boyfriend again.
It turns out, he will be returning in Harley Quinn #11 - 13 for a new story arc, "Joker Loves Harley." What happened to the new, self-reliant character who isn't obsessed with the Joker anymore? After accomplishing so much, Harley doesn't deserve to be held back again.
The Trouble With 'Suicide Squad'
It is no secret that Harley and the Joker's relationship was highly romanticized in #SuicideSquad. While Margot Robbie's sensational performance truly brought the character to life, the movie failed to portray Harley as the strong woman she is. You would think that joining Task Force X would help take her mind off of the Joker, but not even slightly. Throughout the team's missions, she experienced many flashbacks, including her chemical sacrifice:
The film made lots of changes to the nature of their relationship. In the scene above, Harley fell back into the vat of chemicals on her own. This came from her New 52 origin, but in the comics, the Joker pushed her into the vat against her will.
I was surprised by his constant willingness to chase and save her throughout the film, as it was opposite to his typical selfish mentality. All of his abusive scenes with Harley were removed, and he was depicted to be the loyal, loving boyfriend that one could only dream of. This false portrayal of the couple is problematic — we all know that the Joker is manipulative and violent towards Harley. Such treatment should never be considered #RelationshipGoals, not even for a second.
Overall, how do we mend the character of Harley Quinn in the future? To start, she needs to leave the Joker behind. It won't be easy for her, no, but in Gotham City Sirens, she'll have Ivy and Catwoman by her side. As they are both empowering characters, helping Harley will be something they value and take pride in.
Additionally, her intense romantic connection with Ivy will display the love and care she deserved all along. Positive reinforcement for a character should not be difficult to create. Harley has embraced her power in the comics, and now, it's time for her to discover it in the DCEU and beyond.
Do you want to see the Joker in Gotham City Sirens or should it only be Harley's movie? Let us know in the comments below!