When Harley Quinn was first created for the '90s show Batman: The Animated Series, she was an instant hit with fans. With her quirky sense of humor and psychopathic tendencies, Harley was an iconic character from the get-go, but there's a powerful message at the heart of her narrative that often gets overlooked — and that's the cautionary tale against domestic abuse.
Harley was created as a foil for the Joker, who consistently emotionally and physically abused his enamored and disillusioned young paramour. This was evident in The Animated Series, and yet, because of Harley's compulsive obsession with the #Joker, their "mad love" soon eclipsed the domestic abuse allegories. Although later comics have seen Harley leave the Joker, shack up with her current girlfriend Poison Ivy, and have her own adventures, it seems that her live action counterpart is still shackled to the Clown Prince of Crime.
Margot Robbie Goes Back On Criticisms Of Harley And Joker
At a recent press event, Margot Robbie commented on the Harley and Joker movie that is rumored to be in production. Called a "criminal love story" by insider sources, Robbie doubled-down on this aspect of the story, gushing about the potential directors.
"They’re great! It’s fun working with a directing duo... I’ve obviously done two films with them so I think they’re just brilliant. I’m personally a sucker for a love story. In any iteration. I think people enjoy seeing two characters who, in Harley and Joker’s case, would die for one another. It’s kind of romantic in a messed up way."
"Romantic". Uh huh.
The Hollywood Reporter's insider sources compared the Harley and Joker movie to Natural Born Killers — but there's a fine line between a criminal couple whose love for each other is violence, and a couple who do violence to each other. No matter how many times Harley hits back, she is still under the Joker's sway, she is still dominated and controlled by him, and presenting this unbalanced and abusive relationship as romantic is incredibly damaging because it perpetuates and justifies this behavior in the real world.
Aggravatingly, #MargotRobbie herself has expressed dislike for the relationship between Harley and the Joker. While promoting #SuicideSquad, Robbie expressed her thoughts in an interview with The Independent, saying:
"I found that really frustrating. Fans seem to really love that about her, that she has this complete devotion to a guy that treats her badly."
In other interviews, Robbie has called the relationship "unhealthy, dysfunctional, destructive and toxic" — which leads me to wonder why the actress has changed her tune so much when talking about the Harley and Joker movie.
Harley Quinn And The Joker, Or Harley vs Joker?
Interestingly, when the movie was first rumored during SDCC, the working title was cited as Harley Quinn vs The Joker. This dramatically shifts the focus of the narrative from "criminal love story", to Harley slowly realizing that the Joker is abusive, and punishing him for it, a la Kill Bill. This is something the comics have featured many times in the last few years, with my personal favorite being Harley and Joker's violent reunion in her solo ongoing series.
With Robbie reportedly signed on as executive producer for the Harley and Joker movie, we can only hope that her perspective on their relationship will influence what the movie is about. It's entirely possible that this film will set up Gotham City Sirens, with Harley ultimately leaving the Joker to live with her gal pal Poison Ivy — leading into their team-up with Catwoman to wreck all kinds of havoc on Gotham City.
For that matter, what's the deal with Gotham City Sirens? It's very difficult not to see the slew of Joker movie announcements as bad news for the female-lead movie, which also has Robbie as an exec. In fact, Robbie was the one who pitched #GothamCitySirens to Warner Bros. and it seemed to be her pet project, after comic book research for Suicide Squad lead her to fall in love with #DC's fantastic female characters. We should be getting news of pre-production, but instead, the recent radio silence on any Gotham City Sirens development is very, very concerning.
While I'm hopeful that the Harley and Joker film will be a slow burn, showing how Harley fell for the Joker and the rosy days of their psychotic love story, before diving deep into Harley's psyche and unveiling the relationship for the abusive pile of crap it really is... there's a strong chance that this isn't the movie Warner Bros. are making. Instead, we'll probably get yet more romanticized abuse to sell "Daddy's Lil Monster" T-shirts — and the likely erasure of Poison Ivy from the narrative to ensure that Harley doesn't even have a friend to turn to, let alone a girlfriend.
So please, please Warner Bros, when you're looking for inspiration for this film, turn to Kill Bill over Natural Born Killers. Look back on Batman: The Animated Series and recognize how Harley's story was always about her liberation from the Joker, not her love for him. And if you must show violence between the two of them, don't pass it off as an equal display of passion — show the Joker's abuse, sure, but make sure that Harley eventually gets her revenge... preferably before driving off into the sunset with Poison Ivy.
After all, that's what happens in the comics.
Tell us in the comments: What do you want the Harley and Joker movie to focus on?