Harley Quinn: Anyone who throws boomerangs has some real issues letting go. – Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014)
I’m just going to start with this. I fucking love Harley Quinn. Out of every character that’s ever come out of the Batman universe, she’s my utter favourite (with exception to The Riddler). When you break through the character you might have seen on Batman: The Animated Series, she is a brilliant, disturbed, complex creature. She is a talented clinical psychiatrist who falls in obsessive ‘love’ with the psychotic Joker and takes his abuse for years and years, because he gets so under her skin – and when she gets out of the relationship, she becomes a survivor. And despite the fact that her sexy appearance in the new trailer for Suicide Squad has ruffled a few feathers online (*cough*TUMBLR*cough*) she sees her sexuality as a strength, it’s as much of a weapon to her as anything else. Even a giant mallet doesn’t get as much shit done as her body and coquettish ways. I don’t understand Enchantress’s costume though… Anyway.
And despite what people might think, I’m actually really looking forward to seeing Suicide Squad! I’m a sucker for a bad guy looking for redemption. Guardians of the Galaxy was amazing (not just for Chris Pratt’s abs… oh mama) and Suicide Squad seems to be going for the same sort of vibe – even down to using Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in the trailer in place of GoTG’s Hooked On A Feeling. But, I’m deeply irritated by something borne of the trailer, as we take a better look at the ensemble than in the previous sneak peeks. Mainly?
Why? Because of this:
Yes, Harley Quinn is adorable. She’s sexy, funny, cute and a total bombshell. She’s also very mentally unstable due to having her head fucked with by the Joker, both his physical and mental abuse, so she most likely has a form of post-traumatic stress disorder – which is totally viable in the wake of an abusive relationship. Symptoms of PTSD include;
- vivid flashbacks (feeling that the trauma is happening all over again)
- intrusive thoughts and images
- intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma
- physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling.
- panicking when reminded of the trauma
- being easily upset or angry
- extreme alertness
- a lack of or disturbed sleep
- irritability and aggressive behaviour
- being easily startled
- self-destructive behaviour or recklessness.
- repressing memories (being unable to remember aspects of the event)
- feeling detached, cut off and emotionally numb
(More information about PTSD can be found at Mind)
Now, please point out the symptoms in that list which seem attractive. I mean, in the trailer, Suicide!Harley says she has voices in her head so you can tick ‘intrusive thoughts and images’, oh, and she stole a cute bag out of a shop window so throw in ‘rec
klessness’ for good measure. I’m sure we’ll get more of a look into Suicide!Harley’s past with the Joker – there was some leaked on-set footage last year of Suicide!Joker smack
ing Suicide!Harley (when she was Harleen Quinzel, before her transformation into Quinn) around the face, plus bits of her racing round with him and being dunked in a tank of probably toxic goo. (Which is an entirely different problem as it’s a different origin story to how she was introduced back in 1994… but I digress) We are going to see her being broken, and the resulting personality flaws.
It’s bad enough that there are people online who desire for a relationship like The Joker and Harley’s – it is not a fucking healthy relationship. There is no love, no devotion, no loyalty except from Harley due to her intense infatuation. I mean, read these quotes;
Harley Quinn: But Puddin’, I-I don’t understand! Didn’t you want to finally get rid of Batman?
The Joker: Only if I do it, idiot!
Harley Quinn: But it’s still your plan, see?
[shows him his blueprints]
Harley Quinn: Everything just like you said, except I hung the guy upside down so he sees the little frowns as little smiles. Now it all works!
[Joker grabs the blueprints and tears them up]
The Joker: Except you had to *explain* it to me! If you have to explain a joke, THERE IS NO JOKE!
[He advances on Harley, growling. Nervously, she grabs hold of a swordfish]
Harley Quinn: Now calm down, Puddin’…
The Joker: You’ve forgotten what I told you a long time ago. One of the painful truths of comedy…
[grabs the swordfish out of her hands]
The Joker: YOU ALWAYS TAKE SHOTS FROM FOLKS WHO JUST DON’T GET THE JOKE!
[Joker whacks Harley with the swordfish, sending her crashing out the window and plunging down several stories to land in a pile of garbage, apparently dead]
The Joker: And don’t call me Puddin’.
Batman: You little fool. The Joker doesn’t love anything except himself. Wake up, Harleen. He had you pegged for hired help the minute you walked into Arkham.
Harley Quinn: That’s not – no. NO! He told me things, secret things that he never told anyone!
Batman: Was it his line about the abusive father? Or the one about the runaway mom. He’s gained a lot of sympathy with that one.
Harley Quinn: Stop it! You’re making me confused!
Batman: What was it he told that one parole officer… Oh yeah, “There was only one time I ever saw Dad really happy. He took me to the Ice Show when I was seven.”
Harley Quinn: [softly] Circus… He said it was the Circus.
Batman: He’s got a million of them, Harley.
Harley Quinn: [covered in jewels] Whheee! Look at all the pretties!
The Joker: Put them back, Harley.
Harley Quinn: Awww, you’re such a kidder, Mr J. You never could…
The Joker: [grabbing Harley in a chokehold] I said put them back!
[tosses her across the room]
Harley Quinn: [shocked] S-s-sure, boss. I can do that. This is me putting them back. No problemo…
But now, there’s an audience that think Suicide!Harley’s ‘voices’ remark is cute and quirky and oh so attractive. Urgh.
Look folks, having voices in your head? Not fun, not cute, not quirky. Try living with your own voice berating you on a regular basis, and that’s not the worst it can be. When I was coming off antipsychotics, it was like having an army of Claire clones, screaming in my head, with my mom’s voice thrown in at times for that extra trauma. And you can’t shut it up because it’s in your own damn head. The diazepam quietens them enough for me to sleep the impending BPD episode away. Antipsychotics shut them up altogether.
I have spoken in length to people with schizophrenia and holy shit – it’s a different kind of personal hell altogether. Seriously, read some case studies from patients with schizophrenia. It’s scary. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Social Justice Warrior™ and I applaud creativity, but it’s the reaction to Suicide!Harley’s psychosis that is getting to me. If they knew what it was like to live with these sorts of things, would it still be cute and quirky? What if Harley wasn’t a gorgeous blonde with legs up to her ears, would they consider it to be attractive then?
The worst bit? The actress Margot Robbie said this herself:
No. No, you don’t want to be any of these things Ms. Robbie. She might think being creepy is a desirable trait, but you’re talking to the woman who made friends back in school with a group of girls when they said, “Hey, you’re not as creepy as your drawings make you seem to be.” Spraying deodorant in a girl’s eyes during a mood swing didn’t win me friends or a boyfriend either. People are treating the glimpse into Suicide!Harley’s ‘craziness’ as a personality perk rather than a flaw.
The film isn’t out yet. And I’m not going to boycott it like some are suggesting it should be due to ableism. But let me ask you something. If you’re reading this thinking that Harley Quinn is your dream girl, would you be okay with being stalked by someone who’s besotted with you? Sure, flattering at first – until she doesn’t take no for an answer. What about a girl who says she loves you in the morning, then she hates you in the afternoon because you went out to lunch without her (this involves being bombarded with vicious texts, angry subtweets and posting online about how you’re the worst lay she’s ever had…) before she snaps out of it
and loves you again. I mean, the sex is crazy good, but she gets the feeling you’re going to leave and she can’t bear it. One day you take a closer look at
your birth control and holes have been pricked in each condom you own… She can’t live without you. She needs you. You are her everything and she won’t let you go.
Sounds extreme, right? These situations do happen. I’m guilty of the first two actions. Not my proudest moments, but like Harley my behaviour is the result of a mental disorder developed after suffering severe trauma. It’s funny that so many people I have followed online in the past think that Suicide!Harley is adorable as fuck, and yet they think I’m an unstable mess. That’s only true 10% of the time, at least I’m taking care of myself and haven’t turned to a life of fucking crime.
It all boils down to the perception of a character who goes much deeper than just ‘pretty bad girl.’ If you can’t accept Harley as broken, or think she’s something you want to be, then you are in for a rough time when you come across someone like me.