Harley Quinn is so much more than some abused sexpot
The thoughts and views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and may not represent the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of anyone else associated with AdventureAmigos.net
Over the last few weeks, I have seen a multitude of articles purposing that the character of Harley Quinn is nothing but a scantly dressed, abused, over sexualized character that only exists to get fanboys blood flowing south. A character that should disturb parents whose kids are watching shows with her character, playing with her toys, or wearing her merchandise. One vision-blind, reality lacking, and obvious character non-understanding filled piece actually put it as this – watching the upcoming Suicide Squad should “let the cold breeze of reality chill your soul”. This type of hyperbole truly has no place at the table, and only exists as click bait bullshit. I’m here not to justify or excuse Harley Quinn, nor her relationships or actions, but instead to actually acknowledge the complexity of the character.
Harley Quinn, DC Comics’ arguably most popular and well known female character other than Wonder Woman is one of the more complex characters that you will find not only on the colored page, but also in other media as well. But based on a myriad of recent articles that claim she is nothing but some scantly clad abused female, you might find that hard to believe. Well, I am here to tell you Amigos; Harley Quinn is more than just a sexpot. Some people might know that if they actually took the time to read, watch, play & simply know the character a little better.
Introduced in Batman: the Animated series in September 1992 in the episode ‘Joker’s Favor’, Harley Quinn first began as simply a background side character in the Joker’s gang (her first comic appearance was a year later) She then continued to show up more and more until it was clear that she specifically was the Jokers lover as well as sidekick. When it was apparent that audiences wanted to know more of Harley, Paul Dini & Bruce Timm, who had created the animated series, crafted the graphic novel Mad Love which delved much more deeply in to not only her relationship with “Mr. J”, but also into Quinn’s own back-story.
A Dr. in her own right, Harleen Frances Quinzell was working at Arkham Asylum and had the Joker as one of her patients. Over the course of her psychoanalysis, even though she had studied him for months before ever allowing their sessions to begin, the Joker brilliantly plays into her underlying sympathy and good nature until she begins to sympathize and eventually fall in love with Joker. (Her view, I am not claiming that an abusive relationship is or could ever be based on ‘love’) The eventual injury and capture of her puddin’ pushes Harleen over the edge, culminating with a break from reality and seeing her don a jester costume and becoming the Harlequin- Harley Quinn.
Now throughout the years Harley has been involved with considerably more than just the Joker. Most commonly, she is seen with her on and off again lover Poison Ivy, and occasionally Catwoman, either in pairs or as a full collection of femme fatals known as the Gotham City Sirens. She has been foe frequently of the Birds of Prey; she has joined and quit both the Secret Six & the Suicide Squad. Throughout Detective Comics, we have seen her show up in spots that give her much more depth then normally given credit for. In Detective-831, she helps Batman capture a copycat Ventriloquist out of respect for the original villain who spent time with her while she was in Arkham, thus having Bruce Wayne helping to grant Harley her parole; one of the best realizations that she can be her own person is in Decective-663 where upon finding out that helping out the Joker would result in her own demise, she shoots him in the arm and assists in his capture.
Starting back in 2001, Harley did have her own ongoing title that had contributors such as Mike Huddleston, Terry Dodson, Karl Kesel and others. In that series, Harley goes out on her own, before eventually forming a group and leaving the streets of Gotham for Metropolis with Ivy. By the end of that run we get a Harley that acknowledges that she needs help, and turns herself in (ironically) to Arkham Asylum to get it.
The introduction of the New 52 in 2011 did give the character a much sexed up makeover and a more violent/manic tone to the character. A member of Suicide Squad, she breaks ranks when she learns of the Joker’s demise, and goes as far as pinning his removed skin to the face of Deadshot to have in her mind, one last conversation with her dead clown. Buoyed by her popularity, and probably due to knowledge that she would likely wind up in the DC Films universe, Harley Quinn #1 launched in November 2013 written by husband and wife team Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, with Conner also doing the covers. This new Harley title took the character out of Gotham, away from the Joker and Bat-family, and placed her in Coney Island as the landlord in a building filled with assorted characters to keep up with. There as more an anti-hero than any type of villain, she ends up teaming with Power Girl, Poison Ivy (returning as a lover as well), and even returns to practicing as Dr. Harleen Quinzell.
In the Arkham games, where she is probably now best known, Harley starts off as a partner with the Joker, before eventually taking on and leading a gang of her own after his demise. She is vicious and extremely violent, dressed in a variety of outfits that are designed both to titillate and be modeled after by cosplayers, of which there is no shortage of at any Con throughout the year.
Now does any of that mean that Harley Quinn isn’t an abused woman? No. Not at all. While at times she is thrown around and hit just the same as some of his other henchmen, the abuse is still there and possibly even increased as a dysfunction of the relationship. So make no mistake about that and don’t think there’s ANY justification there because there isn’t. The relationship between Harley and the Joker is a dangerous and tragic situation that is all too real in everyday society. A man who could ever commit physical and/or emotional abuse, & a woman could find excuses or justification for that behavior, is never in a healthy relationship.
While none of this is expected to make you like a character, and it sure as hell is not here to try and excuse the plethora of shitty ways that Harley gets treated and abused, nor glance past her own homicidal acts, it is designed to make sure you look beyond the surface, beyond a single character trait, and try to see why she is one of the very few characters that have been created in the last 30+ years that people still follow and care about today. And if you still in this day and age can’t get past the fact that there are sexy women who are comfortable with and in control of their personal, professional, relationships, and sex life, without doing so for your stunted juvenile thoughts of what femininity and sexuality should be, than YOU are the problem. Not a comic book character.
Simply put, if you don’t like one take on a character, look in another place; because to pigeon-hole and narrow down the entirety of this character to simply one who is incorrectly portrayed as only a scantly clad Stockholm Syndrome victim with murderous tendencies completely belies the more than 25 years of stories that make her a character people are excited to see on screen.
Now though, please, can we get the Harlequin outfit in her next film? After all, Harley Quinn DID catch the Batman.
Harley Quinn is so much more than some abused sexpot