You'd be pretty hard-pressed at this point to find someone who knows about superheroes but doesn't know about Harley Quinn. The black-and-red spangled jester sprang her way out of a throwaway character for the Batman animated series and into the hearts of thousands of DC fans. But why? Harley Quinn is insane. She's a villain. She's far from what one would consider to be a perfect role model.
So, What's Behind Her Soaring Popularity?
From her diamond pattern to her jester's hat (or twin ponytails), Harley Quinn is a very iconic figure in the DC universe. This makes her great for merchandise, from DC's point of view, but also makes her recognizable anywhere. You can change the costume on Harley, but you can't change the Harley in the costume!
She started out as a love-sick minion for the Joker, but she's become a symbol to many as a woman strong enough to remove herself from an abusive situation, especially in the New 52. While Harley's position as a "strong, independent woman" is pretty tentative, it's definitely growing. Her dependency on Mistah J and willingness to put up with being blown up, put in danger, and tossed out of windows are both quickly vanishing.
It should also be noted that Harley Quinn is freaking hilarious. From her over-the-top Brooklyn accent to the clown suit, everything about her adds up to comedy. And in a world as dull as ours and as serious as Batman's, a bit of comic relief is always appreciated. Her gags, pranks, fourth-wall breaking, and very random actions are enough to put a smile on anyone's face. Well, maybe not Batman.
In a weird way, Harley Quinn is a role model to many. Not so much her insanity and violence, but in the same way that Joker was a role model to Harleen Quinzel; she represents the freedom we often fail to find in the daily grind. Her "screw it" attitude and freedom to be herself is a pretty darn tempting deal. On the other hand, she tends to end up in the slammer for it.
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