Anyone who is familiar with #HarleyQuinn knows her origins as the jester-like sidekick of DC's most famous villain, #TheJoker. As DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns says in the #SuicideSquad special features, this relationship is not a healthy one.
More often than not, the Joker has been verbally and physically abusive towards his former psychiatrist — and she's been more than willing to make excuses for his behavior and/or find ways to blame herself. That's why it's such a big deal when, in the comics, she finally leaves him (for a much healthier relationship with Poison Ivy).
However, This Wasn't The Joker-Harley Relationship We Saw In Suicide Squad
Warner Bros. tried to take a different avenue with Harley's big-screen debut by making her more independent and #TheJoker more of a lovesick gangster stopping at nothing to reunite with his girlfriend. That's all well and good, but now — with the announcement of Gotham City Sirens — Warner Bros. finds itself likely planning to have Harley leave the Joker for Poison Ivy (as many fans are demanding) without the backstory that sets up why she needs to do so.
Since the announcement of Gotham City Sirens, it seems as though DCEU fans have been on a mission to dictate what they think the film should be to Warner Bros, despite whatever #MargotRobbie and #DavidAyer had in mind. If these fans have their way, Harley would immediately ditch the Joker for Poison Ivy, without Margot Robbie and Jared Leto ever depicting their characters' unhealthy dynamic.
But would this shortcut really be the best way to tell Harley's story? And is fan pressure how art should be created?
When It Comes To The DCEU, Fan Response Is A Powerful Thing
Negative criticism after Man of Steel influenced Batman v Superman, just as negative feedback about Batman v Superman influenced changes with Suicide Squad. Now that we've seen even more negativity after Suicide Squad, you can't help but wonder if these continuous calls from fans will continue to change the DCEU, as well as change the course of Harley Quinn's journey. Would those potential changes come at the expense of her character?
Suicide Squad gave us a very small glimpse into the relationship between Harley Quinn and the Joker. If DC kicks the Joker (and Jared Leto) to the curb and jumps right into Harley Quinn's relationship with Poison Ivy with Gotham City Sirens, it will cheat viewers out of more than you might think. Not only would it make Harley's evolution feel meaningless, but any steps that she takes towards an abuse-free life will have been for nothing because we would have seen nothing regarding what she was walking away from.
DC Should Trust Its Audience With Difficult Material — And Vice Versa
One thing we did manage to see from Harley Quinn is her knack for taking advantage of the discomfort of her peers. That is no doubt a practice she adopted from her Puddin' over the years in Gotham City, but it is nevertheless a trait that very likely came from her past experiences.
If we don't see more details of what that past includes, there is no real way we could possibly understand why she is the way that she is. And yes, that explanation will no doubt make us uncomfortable. But why are we so afraid of what makes us uncomfortable?
Art is meant to make us uncomfortable. We can't start conversations or make progress without having our comfort levels shaken up. For me personally, I would feel like any statements people want Gotham City Sirens to make need to stem from actually portraying the abuse between Harley and the Joker.
What is more powerful: showing Harley in a new life with only an implied background, or actually showing her fighting back against the Joker's domestic abuse?
If Gotham City Sirens breezes past Harley's relationship with the Joker because fans might be upset, we are in bigger trouble with the DCEU than we thought. It shouldn't be this easy to sway the creative direction of a film studio. With each release, it has appeared that Warner Bros. simply doesn't know what kind of universe they want, and they make changes based upon what the fan response of the moment is.
Viewers complained about the dark nature of both #ManOfSteel and #BatmanVSuperman, which prompted the studio to revamp the direction of Suicide Squad. It's pretty safe to say that the more lighthearted nature of the villains came due to feedback from the fandom and the continuous pressure to compete with Marvel Studios. Looking at how Suicide Squad basically tanked with critics (even with the changes), it makes you wonder if the fandom has prevented the #DCExtendedUniverse from fully developing into one cohesive idea.
Because we still don't know much about what Gotham City Sirens will entail, the film very well could stay true to Harley's origins. #JaredLeto signed a multi-film contract with Warner Bros. and, with the way Suicide Squad ended, there is a huge possibility that he could return for this outing — even if it's just intended to get rid of him by the end, as far as Harley is concerned.
I just hope that the calls from fans to skip the Joker storyline entirely won't cheat Harley Quinn out of the chance to shine in the face of adversity. Warner Bros. is going to have to accept that viewers will be uncomfortable, but it would create a more impactful conversation — and a more impactful film — if it's done properly.