Harley Quinn has come a long way since her origin as a side character in Joker’s crew in the ’90s “Batman: The Animated Series.” Today, she has her own comic book line in the main DC universe timeline and was recently a protagonist portrayed by Margot Robbie in the 2016 film “Suicide Squad.”
Harley is known for being a bad guy; she tortures most of her victims, kills and steals. She learned all of these skills from her long time lover, the classic Batman villain the Joker. Recently, she has gained much attention and has even become a role model in a lot of ways. However one thing has remained: Harley and Joker’s relationship. These two were always noted as the icons of villainous romantic relationships.
This is actually a very heavy issue because of the true nature of their relationship. Harley is madly in love with the Joker, however the same can’t be said for him. The Joker is a violent, sociopathic, criminal mastermind. He would physically and mentally abuse Harley Quinn constantly. When you put it in that perspective, it feels odd that many would idolize their relationship. These two were the “it” couple when it came to bad guys in comic books.
As a writer, I feel very proud of the character of Harley. Having any side character develop into an important role in comic books and pop icon history is a great accomplishment. However, the fact that she was chained to an abusive man makes me want to pull my hair out. Harley Quinn was stuck in this endless loop of going back to the Joker and every single time she would get beaten up or yelled at for loving him. How was this character supposed to develop if she would remain stuck as his side character?
Another reason I have hard feelings for the character is her fans. I’m not talking about the average comic book reader fan, but instead all the cosplayers and Halloween costume fans. They dress up as the most sexual clown and then praise the love between Joker and Harley. “She is so badass! She is a role model! Girls can be bad too! She is funny and unique. She and the Joker are just so in love, I want my own Joker in life!”
Yes, Harley is a really interesting character and good at being a bad guy, but iconizing a broken relationship and ignoring the fact she is physically and mentally abused by her “true love” is just foolish.
In the end, they were never a real couple. The Joker never loved her, and instead used her to his own sick advantage. They better resemble a supervillain and his sidekick who doubles as a punching bag for the supervillain. She’s head over heels for this freak, but no one batted an eye when she was turned into a punching bag. Why? Because that’s just who she was supposed to be.
However, in 2016, true fans got what they wanted and to be honest, this is fantastic news.
In “Harley Quinn Vol. 5: The Joker’s Last Laugh” by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, Harley finally confronts the Joker and gives him what he deserves. If you enjoy the characters of Harley Quinn, Joker or anyone from the Batman mythos, you should stop by your local comic book store and get a copy.
Recently in the DC universe, the Joker disappeared for some time, leaving Harley to move to New York and join the Suicide Squad. She has a new group of friends but still teams up with classic Batman villains like Poison Ivy. She even has been trying to get romantically involved with someone named Mason Macabre. He is a standout great guy and she seems really happy. However, Macabre has been wrongfully convicted of a crime and sent to Arkham Asylum. To make matters worse, his new neighbor in the next-door cell is Harley’s old flame, the Joker. Harley does what she does best: gears up and prepares to break her man out of the prison. But when she gets to him, the Joker stands in her way.
Harley is sick of his antics and decides to confront him; the Joker begins to push her buttons, until finally they get into a fight. Meanwhile the Joker is trying to kiss her and says demeaning and terrorizing things like “This is what you want!“ “I had your back sweetie, amongst other things,” and “I know you want this,” as he punches her.
He finally gets on top of her and pulls her hair and when it finally seems as if the Joker still has control over her, she kisses him. So now as the reader you’re thinking, “Aww come on? Really? After all this time and she still is falling for this (expletive)?”
But she doesn’t! She bites his bottom lip and rips it off his face! She beats him to a pulp and tells him, “If I ever see you again, or you do anything to me or my family or friends, I’ll end you.” Joker is left defeated on the floor.
Harley manages to get to her man and escape back to New York, finally at peace and leaving behind her past that has been haunting her for the past decade. She now is no longer tied down to the Clown Prince of Crime. She is free to do as she pleases and develop her character instead of being chained to an abusive relationship.
Personally, I’m so happy that Harley finally stood up for herself. Abusive relationships are a very important issue. Seeing a character whose origin story centered around just being the Joker’s “girlfriend” overcome this adversity is powerful. It’s only right she gets the closure and freedom she deserves. If she was a role model to everyone before, I hope now she can have an even stronger impact on the readers and followers.