Hello interweb, Nate here. Sorry for the delay on the 100 Follower special. I’ve been going through some things lately and just haven’t gotten around to finishing it. I have started however so it is on it’s way to being complete but at this point I’m just not going to promise any specific dates. However today I’m responding to an article that appeared on my Facebook feed The Problem with Romanticizing Joker & Harley Quinn’s Relationship written by Kalea Martin for HerCampus.com. Now I know little about the author or this website as it just appeared on my Facebook feed as a “recommendation” however it’s not really the article itself that I’m going to respond to but the idea that Harley Quinn is a sexist character because of her relationship with the Joker and how people romanticize this relationship when they shouldn’t. Because I have seen people say this about the couple over and over again and it is a something that annoys me whenever it’s brought up so I thought I might as well tackle it here.
Now the relationship with the Joker is one of abuse, let’s not mistake this. Harley herself was a psychiatrist for Arkham Asylum before the Joker seduced her and drove her insane to become the villain/anti-hero (which she kind of is now) Harley Quinn. Now of course with every reboot and retelling, there’s different interpretations of this story such as the version from Batman: The Animated Series where she chose to become Harley Quinn versus the one in Suicide Squad where Joker through her in a vat of acid similar to his own origin story and turned her into Harley Quinn himself. However, one thing about their relationship that is consistent (barring Suicide Squad, though I will touch on that later) is that Joker doesn’t care about anyone but himself and only sees Harley as a means to an end, while Harley actually does care for “Mistah J” and would do anything to please him. This is reminiscent of a an abusive relationship. In the comics, however, things have advanced and Harley has left the Joker in recent years and has formed a stronger relationship with fellow villain Poison Ivy. While I’m not sure whether or not they have ever blatantly stated within the comics whether or not they’re an official couple (outside kisses on the lips and strong suggestions that they have slept together), it has been confirmed cannon on social media.
Now let’s discuss the actual complexity of Joker and Harley’s relationship and whether or not it’s actually sexist. Now a lot of people claim that is a bad romance to show as it does indeed portray a relationship in which one character treats the other character in an abusive manner and said characters happen to be a male and a female. Because Harley is being portrayed as weak and dependent on the Joker it weakens her as an actual character and with the sexualization that has the character as undergone only further reduces her in many people’s eyes. This is ridiculous. One thing that I want to make clear to anyone reading this: BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO PEOPLE INCLUDING WOMEN! Both in fiction and in real life and fiction can portray these horrible things and humanize them so an audience can sympathize with the victims. Why is it that Harley suffering through an abusive relationship weakens her character? In my opinion, that’s what makes her an interesting character! She has suffered through the abuse that the Joker has inflicted on her and now she’s move past the abuse and has a much healthier relationship with Poison Ivy. This makes her a more complex character, not a weak one! Just because bad things happen to women doesn’t mean the story is sexist and it honestly blows my mind whenever I hear people make this complaint.
Now with the whole romanticizing angle, honestly I’m assuming that the only people who actually find their relationship romantic probably have never read a comic or seen a cartoon with them and only getting this point of view from Suicide Squad or just a few things they’ve read online. In fact one of the few complaints I had about Suicide Squad when I reviewed it was that the movie chose to show the Joker care for Harley rather than abusing her. In the movie, the relationship is reduced to one between some sleazy guy and his hot girlfriend who are constantly talking about each other. That’s not interesting! Now instead of an abusive relationship where you have the potential to make the Joker look as psychopathic as the Joker is suppose to be and Harley possibly breaking free from his grip to become more independent, you have a generic romance that has no reason for anybody to be interested in advancing.
In conclusion, bad things happen to people in the real world and this can reflect in fiction. Bad things don’t weaken a character but instead make the character stronger when they learn to overcome it. If bad things never happened in fiction that what would be the point to story telling? Even if you consider Harley a sexist character for being abused by a man, some of the best literature features things in it that people nowaday might consider sexist or racist. I recently read Shakespeare’s Othello in my English class and a big part of that book is that the protagonist was looked down upon for marrying someone’s daughter because he was black! You could make the arguement that that form of racism was common back then but unfortunately abusive relationships are common in today’s world. So is Harley and Joker’s relationship one worth romanticizing? No! But is it worth showing to make strong complex characters? Yes!
So how do you feel about Joker and Harley’s relationship? Is Harley a strong character for overcoming her abusive relationship with the joker? Or a sexist portrayal that shows a woman being abused by a man?