Harley Quinn is one of my all-time favourite comic book characters. Ever since I was a child I was hooked on the character thanks to Batman: The Animated Series. I then followed her continued adventures through comic books and other media. Despite her comical appearance, she was a character heavily dependent and emotionally tied to The Joker, but being flawed in this way isn’t a negative. She was damaged, and that was ok.
Over the years the character has developed and moved on, ultimately ending up with Margot Robbie’s take on the character. It’s a shame that Harley Quinn’s first big-screen appearance was written and presented in such an awful way. From the hot pants to her relationship with The Joker. Everything about it, for me, went against everything the character was. This was soon corrected however in The LEGO Batman Movie.
First of all The LEGO Batman Movie did a slightly better job with the design of Harley. Ok, so the mishmash of the ‘Roller Derby’ look from the New 52 & the Arkham games were still an influence. But even so, it was still better than anything David Ayer dreamed up in his misogynistic head.
It’s all about opinions and taste, but for me, the jester look is THE true Harley Quinn form. Yes, you have to adapt and move on with design to fit certain aesthetics, but there was still so many better ways to present the character other than fishnets and hotpants.
The dynamic between The Joker and Harley was also so much better in The LEGO Batman Movie than in Suicide Squad. Sometimes it was the smallest of details, even the way The Joker barely looked at her in the movie, despite always ordering her around, was as close to the original dynamic as we’ve seen on the big screen. He treated her as a weapon, but while her devotion to him was absolute, in The Joker’s mind she was expendable, a tool to be used to take on the person he truly feels the most for, Batman.
Harley Quinn has a brilliant, albeit broken, mind that is housed within a comical and over the top shell. She was a truly complex and layered character. So how is it that the character has changed so much? Over-sized breasts and partial nudity are now considered a key factor in Harley Quinn’s character design be it in video games, fan art or in the DECU, and that is a real tragedy. The character has lost so much of her traditional characters that sometimes the character itself seems to lack a real identity.
Of course the counter augment to the ‘traditional characteristics’, is that the character should no longer be oppressed by The Joker. She should be free from his abuse and be able to promote a strong, positive female character with plenty of empowerment. That’s fine, and we do need more strong female representation in all forms of media and entertainment. But you can’t have Ayer and Robbie claiming they have created an ‘iconic feminist powerhouse’ and then go sticking her in hot pants and showing her backside in every single frame of a movie. They had the chance to do so much with such an amazing character, but they never delivered.
In The LEGO Batman Movie they were able to shape and mix the traditional elements of Harley Quinn with modern concepts without having to use sex appeal as a selling point. She can be strong and powerful, as she should be, but they didn’t write out her flaws, her imperfections. So far, Jenny Slate has given us the best cinematic version of the character, and with Ayer teaming up with Robbie again for the Gotham Sirens movie, she will more thank likely continue to be the best for many years to come.
What are your thoughts on Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad? Let us know in the comments.