Harley Quinn, a truly marvelous, charismatic, and strange enigma, has been throughout the Batman Franchise to break out on her own. Many have stated that Harley is considered a blend of sophistication and allure that makes this antihero the perfect mix of both funny and scary wrapped up in the ultimate package: a runaway renegade. Our first initial introduction to Harley Quinn in the Batman Animated series of the 1990s introduced us to Dr. Harleen Quinnzel, who worked as a Psychiatrist in Arkham Asylum and broke a primary rule of falling in love with a deranged patient we know as the Joker. Throughout her time at Arkham, we see Dr. Quinn has done her homework on the Joker and believes she can “fix him” when she is asked to by Batman, DA Harvey Dent, and Commissioner Gordon. We end up seeing the exact opposite, and shortly after some time, the Joker weasels his way into her heart, and the birth of Harley Quinn happens at ACE Chemicals when she is pushed into a silo of chemicals.
Harley’s character dynamic with the Joker is such a complex problem which in reality it is because you have an abusive jerk who toys with her and doesn’t really love her and when she finally has the courage to leave him he sucks her back in. Harley’s story origin is actually very dark, we see that she comes from a middle-class family but her father is a deadbeat and her mother lives vicariously through her and pushes her dreams of Harley marrying a Jewish doctor will solve all her problems. But Harley tells her mom I don’t need to marry a doctor I am one. As Harley takes the position at Arkham Asylum I think her view of love has somewhat been romanticized in her head and that’s how Joker finds his way in and creates “Harley Quinn.” Harley has so many people throughout the comics, shows letting her know that the Joker will never really love her and he would give her up any day so that he can continuously play the game of cat and mouse with Batman.
Fast-forwarding to the 2019 DC Harley Quinn show, we are taken on a journey of dark humor and a path to self-discovery with Harley Quinn as she leaves her toxic and abusive domestic relationship with the Joker. We meet some interesting characters along the way, but we see her BFF Poison Ivy play a significant role in helping Harley believe in herself even when she fails to believe in herself. Harley’s crew consists of Clayface, Dr. Psycho, King Shark, Sy Borgman, Frank the plant (poison Ivy’s plant), who embark on wild adventures with Harley trying to join the league Doom. Her main goal is to gain the respect of all the villains in Gotham while shoving her success in her ex-boyfriend Joker’s face. Poison Ivy in a sense, helps Harley build the self-esteem that had been diminished due to her being in one of the most toxic domestic abusive relationships in all of DC history. What makes this show funny is that it’s a show filled with dark humor and touches on controversial topics such as domestic abuse, killing people, toxic masculinity and sexual identity, stealing, and much more. This show has allowed Harley Quinn to showcase herself as an individual without powers be a badass antihero; Harley Quinn’s evolution throughout the past decade has shown us comic lovers [myself included] that anything is possible when it comes to starting over. I think that Harley Quinn has shown us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that even though you venture down a wrong path, there is still hope for redemption if you seek it. The HBO max show has been controversial, and the DC movies that show Harley as this oversexualized character whose sole purpose is to have a man validate her to feel worthy of herself. But I will commend DC to allow the writers to get creative with Harley’s story of self-discovery both in the animated series and live verse. If we look closely, Harley has a vast repertoire of lovers throughout her time in the DC universe that often ends up queer baiting. Many controversies have arisen because people feel that their representation is a joke to these significant networks that we have seen with the CW shows such as Supergirl, Arrow, Flash, etc. When we have the show’s with actors/actresses that have good chemistry with each other and the fanbase see’s that we want to see the writers potentially include either MLM (men loving men) or WLW (women loving women) relationship that makes viewers want to tune into these programs.
Overall, there is always an evolution to characters such as Harley Quinn, what’s most exciting is that we get to see her take on the world and do it with her best friend Poison Ivy in the cartoon verse. Poison Ivy once told Harley “yes you may be a villain, but you’re a good person,” and the cartoon version has definitely shown that Harley indeed is a good person, and her evolution through the DC universe I will continuously look forward to. Harley Quinn once stated Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy.”
One thought on “DC’s Evolution of Harley Quinn”
It’s crazy how these shows that one thinks is made for kids, also has lessons for adults and show things that although we see as romantic or even cute in cartoons, unfortunately happen in real life every single day. I think that there does not necessarily need to be a romantic couple in the cartoon, and showing herself as being independent would be more beneficial than seemingly forcing Harley Quinn to be with someone else (man or woman). I strongly believe that if Harley Quinn were to be show with a female love interest, there would still be people complaining about the fact that the couple was only made in order for them to get more viewers, so there will always be a issue.