Pleather and Mace: Harley Quinn and the Joker

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Kristin Devine

Kristin is a geek, a libertarian, and a domestic goddess. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals and works with women around the world as a fertility counselor. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of https://atomicfeminist.com/

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar DensityDuck
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    says:

    There’s also the recent “Harleen” story which presents the Dark Attraction idea, that it’s a sort of BDSM thing for her personality; that being with the Joker is breaking her, but she likes being broken that way.Report

  2. Avatar Silver Wolf
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    says:

    I agree with (what I believe to be) your problem with the Suicide Squad character. With every person, there has to be a point where the calculus breaks down; where the massive risks theoretically outweigh the paltry rewards and no amount of self-delusion can paper over it. In the movie, that point was so obviously crossed with no explanation, not even an insanity plea, to cover it.Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    I think the issue is that the viewer never sees what positive things that Harley Quinn gets out of the relationship, so it’s really difficult to comprehend why she stays with the Joker. There are many reasons why the viewer doesn’t get to see the “good” part of the relationship like the writers not wanting to normalize abusive relationships, especially when the target audience is kids, etc.Report

  4. Avatar Urusigh
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    says:

    I find it interesting that the postscript notes mention the comics but explicitly rejects the reasons found in “Harley Quinn and the Quintets”

    1) Joker reminds her of her previous boyfriend who, in the course of a psychological scenario she ran on him without his knowledge, killed an innocent man to protect her, and then committed suicide (possibly assisted by Harleen herself) when he found out it was just a test to see how far a man will go for love. So there’s some serious guilt there, possibly a sense that if she isn’t willing to go that far as well than her love isn’t the equal of his.

    2) Harley is a hopeless romantic who would rather ignore the problems in her relationship than give up on her “True Love will do ANYTHING” internal narrative (note that this is not at all the same as trying to fit herself into any cultural narrative of “what a good wife would do”, which to the best of my knowledge she has never shown any identification with).

    Cold calculation of costs and benefits just isn’t the way Harley thinks.She’s an all or nothing type who will do anything for love (both giving it and trying to earn it). I think that’s a big part of why people like and identify with her: she’s that madcap irrational obsessive first love, drawn bigger than life. We all wish at some point that we had a love that reached such heights of passion…even if most of us don’t consider it worth the deeply depressing crash that so often follows that euphoric high when reality fails to live up to the fantasy.Report

  5. Avatar Maribou
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    says:

    Yeah. That.

    And also, just to be real reality-blunt for anyone who isn’t already aware:

    Women who make the choice that staying with someone who is violent and coercively controlling is their best option and then stay are *often proven right by the situation itself alone*.

    Number one way to help women get out of abusive relationships (this is an established field of research, folks): increase their economic bases of support
    Number two way to help women get out of abusive relationships (didn’t need to prove this one, most people in the field already knew, was fascinating to learn about people establishing that number one was *even more effective*): put their abusers in jail for a significant amount of time

    LIkelihood that a woman will be murdered or permanently physically harmed in the course of trying to disengage from an abusive relationship: way too fucking high.

    Kristin, I wrote a friends-locked essay on dreamwidth (yeah yeah yeah) about Harley a while back that I’d like to share with you, if you’d be up for reading it – as a response to / thank you for to your excellent post. But it’s intense enough I didn’t want to just dump it in your lap. Email me or let me know here if you are interested.

    And regardless, excellent post!Report

    • Avatar Maribou in reply to Maribou
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      says:

      Like, it’s hard to even look at those balance sheets and be sure she *would* be right to leave, rather than stay and (in her daffy performative inconsistent endearing awful way) end up suprisingly often as a mitigating factor to his body counts.

      Morally? Sure. No question. She ought to leave. He’s a monster. For her own soul’s sake and the lives that her lieutenantship enables him to take, she has a moral imperative to leave and stay gone.

      But in that cold-hearted survivalist he’s going to win every time anyway balance sheet kind of way? *shrug* it’s real *easy* for me to see where her fallacies come from. If they are fallacies. Gotham is a fucked up place. There are no monsters that stay in their cages there.Report

  6. Avatar blake
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    says:

    HQ may not be crazy, but the Joker certainly is*. And I think, in the original, he was barely aware she existed. I don’t really keep up, though, so I don’t know how things have changed. In “Batman: The Dark Prince” (non-canonical, whatever that means), she’s a nag. Like, hottest, bitchiest girlfriend who’s utterly spoiled, and for whom the Joker arranges a heist (and possibly some murders). That take is kinda boring, too.

    The original concept—a fairly conventional woman throwing it all away for a relationship with a celebrity criminal—has a lot of historical merit.

    *If not crazy, then pure evil, which is as close to evil as makes no nevermind.Report

    • Avatar maribou in reply to blake
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      says:

      @blake She didn’t exist at all until the 90s, when the writers of Batman The Animated Series made her up.

      Alternatively, her role in the commedia dell’arte has roots going back at least as far as 11th century French passion plays.

      THAT is her original concept, not ‘conventional woman throws it all away on a famous crime boss’. (And that isn’t what Dini et al were using as a template, either. if anything their intent with regards to that trope was to subvert it. I’ve researched. Extensively.)

      *shrug*

      Her mainstream pretty major solo title at the moment is well written, creative, and pulls the best most endearing of her traits from across time and space into a magical and ridiculous, often offensive, usually punching up, smorgasbord of absurdity.

      it’s worth checking out, IMO. (the *conner* stuff, that is, modern wise. the dude who picked up the title from conner and palmiotti (who are married btw) is sigh… definitely a lesser scribe.Report

  1. April 12, 2020

    […] world full of power imbalances, much the same way that the Joker and Harley Quinn can make people consider the nature of domestic violence by addressing the subject in an non-threatening, depersonalized, entertaining […]Report

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