The Curious Case of Harley Quinn

Alex M. Parker

Alex Parker is a policy writer in Washington, D.C. with 15 years of journalism experience.

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8 Responses

  1. PD Shaw says:

    I think DC has a problem with the movies, because the impulse to change Harley Quinn’s character from the animated series to better comport with the psychotic Joker that became cannon in 1988, now has to deal with a popular movie version of a Joker suffering extreme schizophrenia with hallucinations. This Joker isn’t fit to be the criminal mastermind for the World’s Greatest Detective, nor the stable source of strength that would attract Quinn’s dependency.

    My Joker: “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” (1st batman comic read/owned)
    My Harley Quinn: Batman: The Animated SeriesReport

  2. I can’t speak with any authority. I’m not a consumer of comics/graphic novels, and I’m only a casual fan of Batman. But what you describe here is interesting and in my opinion, good.

    I do disagree with Goodfriend, though:
    ““While we don’t like to talk about it or admit it, one in four women (and one in eight men) is a victim of sexual assault or relationship violence at some point in their lifetime,” Goodfriend told me. “People are drawn to Harley because she has experienced something that so many of us have experienced, but we never see portrayed in mass media.””

    I don’t think it’s true we “never” see it portrayed in mass media. It’s my impression we’ve seen it portrayed more and more (and in more complexity) in the last several decades. That’s good. It should probably be portrayed more. But I’m not certain how new it is. (It may, however, be new to comics or to the Gotham world. I can’t comment on that.)

    I really like what (I believe) this OP is trying to do. And it strikes me as a very nice complement to Kristin’s recent piece on “A Star Is Born.”Report

    • Maribou in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      ““People are drawn to Harley because she has experienced something that so many of us have experienced, but we never see portrayed in mass media.”””

      I think we very *rarely* see it portrayed as something meaningful, rather than a gratuitous plot device, that immerses us in the POV of the person experiencing the abuse, and in the 90s where Harley showed up, it was nearly non-existent aside from after-school special of the week bs stuff.

      I also think we very *rarely* see the experience-from-the-abused-person’s-POV of abusive love relationships (romantic or familial) portrayed with the level of understanding and nuance that even Mad Love (for all its complexity) shows.

      If you’re trying to express something in a soundbite form, never often stands in for a much more complicated set of words that aren’t quite never.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    Yeah, the video games where where Harley really came out to shine. In the video game, she played the Joker’s general. She shouted to the muscleheads that they had to beat Batman up. She gave speeches to Batman before disappearing behind a locked door and then you had to beat henchmen up or do a predator level or something.

    When it came to just you versus her in combat itself, she was easily defeated… but she wasn’t dangerous in and of herself. She was dangerous because Joker’s henchmen did what she told them to. In the game, they recognize her authority. Sure, Joker is more than willing to toss her aside when she failed to stop Batman in Arkham Asylum, but by Arkham City, she’s wielding his authority fairly well (certainly by the time of the DLC) and, in Arkham Knight, she’s the Dragon (though, granted, not the big bad) and one of the most dangerous bosses in the game.

    It might not be easy to come up with a story that uses her well in the comics, given the tensions that it has with the cartoon, but damn if they didn’t hit it out of the park with her in the Arkham games.Report

  4. Maribou says:

    The 2013 Conner / Palmiotti series is my favorite because it expresses the Harley that I’d seen reflected in her fanbase all along. That Harley does show up here and there along the way, both in the games, as @jaybird mentions along the way, but also in the earlier comics, and even the animated series! Conner didn’t rewrite her out of whole cloth.

    I highly recommend that any and everybody who is curious about how much queer subtext (and general enthusiastic supervillain anarchy-chaos levels) can be squeezed into an after school comic book show, check out the “Harley and Ivy” episode of BTAS, which SET ME ON FIRE as a young queer kid and really was as daring as I remembered it being (for the time and context and hi, some of those creators? were gay. and did it on purpose. if you were wondering). It also does a pretty good job (for the time and context) of demonstrating the wavering resolve of someone who has left their abusive lover. Not everyone wavers. But for anyone who has lived with a parent who *does* waver… it was pretty meaningful to me.Report

  1. January 20, 2020

    […] his recent piece, The Curious Case of Harley Quinn, Alex Parker takes a look at Harley Quinn’s mental health and speculates about why it is someone […]Report