[Harley Quinn](tag:3536500) is one of DC's newest yet most beloved characters. First appearing in 1992 in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn was soon adopted into the wider DC comics canon, featuring in many more animated TV shows and films, as well as making multiple comic book appearances.
With her zany characterisation Harley has endeared herself to many fans: a complex character, she veers between psychotic violence and compassion, amping up her villainous appeal while giving her opportunities for redemption. Her origin story is one of DC's most tragic and interesting, and so far [Suicide Squad](tag:2283363) seems set to do her justice. So why will Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn be so influential in the DCEU?
Suicide Squad Role: What We Know
Because of her popularity, fans have high expectations for Harley Quinn's cinematic debut, so Suicide Squad has a lot to live up to. But there are plenty of reasons to be confident David Ayer will do Harley justice. The trailer, firstly, focuses a lot on Harley Quinn's story: she is the character who gets the most screentime, and the musical choices certainly seem to mirror her character development.
There's not a lot that we know so far about Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, but the trailer and set picture leaks tell an interesting story. It seems as though the film will make use of her role as a doctor - Harleen Quinzel holds a phD in psychiatry, and first met the Joker when trying to rehabilitate him. This is crucial to her character: she is fiercely intelligent and analytical, which some writers ignore. So far so good for Suicide Squad.
We also know that she puts up a fight before the Joker's torture inevitably turns her into his sidekick. Set photos revealed Harleen turning a gun on the Joker, though her resistance was short lived.
It's very important to highlight that the nature of Harley and Joker's "crazy love" is distinctly abusive, as their relationship is sometimes idealised. Ultimately, Harley Quinn's villainous persona is created by the Joker, who as well as driving her insane, also continues to treat her terribly and violently even after she becomes his loyal sidekick.
Luckily, Suicide Squad seems ready to cast a critical eye on this relationship: the fact that the film will focus more on Harley getting over the Joker and becoming her own person is very confidence inspiring. David Ayer has also revealed he's thinking hard about Harley's mental health...
The case of Harley Quinn: Her madness defines her. Is she mad because of WHO she loves or because she loves him so much? #skwad— David Ayer (@DavidAyerMovies) February 5, 2015
The fact that she's working with Task Force X also parallels her current development in the New 52, where she has moved beyond total villainy to a more morally ambiguous persona. I'm hoping Ayer is really paying attention to Harley's comics arc, because there have been some fantastic moments that could inspire her role in Suicide Squad...
Harley's Best Comic Moments
Harley Quinn is a great villain, but some of her best moments have been the most revelatory, when her genuine personality has shined through the madness. Don't get me wrong, she's capable of being as vicious as the rest, and she shouldn't just be written as a tortured victim: Harley has admitted that she did have some control over becoming bad, though her love for the Joker did motivate and influence her transformation.
"I loved flushing away the control. The goals. The regiment way of life I’d had. I was finally free. Free to forget. To play for fun. To play crazy."
But she's also aware of how this has affected her mental health, discussing her "disassociation" and feelings of numbness. Harley's development is so compelling because it's a journey back to agency and self awareness, and she continues to surprise heroes and readers alike. One of the best arcs recently was when she stopped fighting Black Canary as Harley realised the hero was pregnant. After revealing she also had a child (who loves ballet and monster trucks), Harley even visited Dinah in hospital.
And let's not forget the time she helped a kid work through his anger issues, grief, and difficult relationship with his father...
Of course I'm not suggesting that Suicide Squad feature a totally fluffy and kind version of Harley, or a totally victimised one that highlights her relationship with the Joker. She also shouldn't be too serious - one of the appeals of her character is that she's indomitably irreverent and witty, delivering perfect dark comic moments. Bruce Timm, creator of the character, has stressed the importance of fun in Harley's story.
"I think bottom line the most important thing about her is that she’s funny. One way or the other regardless of what her backstory is, or whether she’s in an abusive relationship with the Joker, or if she’s off on her own, or hanging out with Poison Ivy, or whether she’s a villain or a hero. Her stories always have to be fun."
And speaking of her relationship with Poison Ivy yes, it's totally canon now that they're polyamorous girlfriends...
Ok, that doesn't directly relate to Suicide Squad but it wouldn't be a Harley Quinn article without mentioning Poison Ivy (here's hoping there's a sneaky reference to Ivy in the movie... Joker asking after her, perhaps?).
Ultimately, Harley's characterisation is difficult to pull off: there are a lot of elements to balance, and meanwhile the pitfall of turning her into a torture porn sexpot also has to be avoided. But when done right, Harley is one of the most important and influential comic characters in DC. And her portrayal in Suicide Squad could elevate the DCEU movies to a higher level of awesome, revealing the human side of villainy.
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