07 August 2016

So...about this Harley and Joker thing....

****Fair warning: Spoilers ahoy.****

After my two recent viewings of Suicide Squad and too much time hanging out on Twitter, I developed emotions. Suicide Squad in general gave me emotions. That whole thing with Deadshot and his daughter? ALLLLLLLL THE FEELS. And yes, I know the movie is problematic in so many ways. Adam Beach deserved a whole lot better; the Native community as a whole deserves a whole lot better. Slipknot deserved to be more than a throwaway character. But I digress.

As a Batman fan from a very young age, I actually remember the episode where Harley debuted. Originally, she was a throwaway character herself from a Joker dream sequence, but the writers decided to keep her, gave her a backstory, turned her into the character we all know and love. Before I go any further: Dear Margot Robbie, you KILLT IT.


There are plenty of people who view the movie as romanticizing Harley and Joker's relationship, but I disagree. A lot, actually. As someone who dated a man with sociopathic tendencies, I probably have a starkly different view, thanks to Robbie's very nuanced portrayal of Harley Quinn.

New 52 origin aside, Harleen Quinzel's transformation into Joker's girlfriend, as she's repeatedly called, isn't a complete transformation. Her time away from Joker has put her into a sort of identity crisis, where bits and pieces of her old life creep through to the surface. There's a lot of uncertainty in her face, where she isn't sure she wants to go back to Joker now that she has something akin to friends in Deadshot and Diablo, and eventually Croc.

One of the most telling parts of the movie is just after the ACE Chemicals flashback: Deadshot startles her and she pulls her gun on him. That kind of reaction does not happen after a happy memory, guys. Regardless of the tense situation, it's the first time up to that point she's truly shown fear. And then, the absolutely brokenhearted way in which she asks Deadshot if he's ever been in love.... She's looking for reassurance, and when she doesn't get it, she calls him a "textbook sociopath."

You see, she already knows Joker doesn't love her.

She knows he's incapable of loving her or anything else.

But here's the problem, and the thing sociopaths are experts at: Harley has no idea who she is away from him.

The Puddin collar (because it is), the jacket, hell, her entire color scheme--all facilitated by Joker. He's created her, given her the identity of Harley Quinn. Even her mannerisms are patterned after his. He's so entrenched in her that the separation has to be jarring for her, which explains why she's desperate to get back to him, because getting back to him means getting back to herself, because what is she without him? She gave up her family (she has a mom and brother, plus a dad who's a career criminal); her occupation, which is grueling YEARS of school plus a continuation of classes after you earn your degree--I actually wanted to go into criminal psychology, too; and her entire identity to be what he made her. Trust me when I say it's really, really difficult to get back to yourself after a relationship with a sociopath. And it's much easier to fill a role than rebuild when you've given everything and gotten nothing in return.

So no, I don't think the movie romanticizes Harley and Joker's relationship. I think it's actually one of the more honest portrayals we've seen. And if they'd kept in the deleted scenes of the physical abuse Harley suffered from him, the honesty would've been brutal.

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