I don’t understand the appeal of Harley Quinn, sexual or otherwise
As far as “Female villains of the Batman universe” go, Harley Quinn has always been on my low tier. I’m not saying she’s a bad character, nor am I saying she’s useless to storylines. But she’s nowhere near the top of my list (which has Poison Ivy and Catwoman at the top), despite the massive amounts of love Harley gets from other fans.
I don’t get it.
Is it because she’s hot? I can get behind that. I like hot bad girls, you like hot bad girls, all the bad girls in the Batman Universe are hot… Sure, if you or anyone you know likes Harley because her character design is appealing to you, okay, that’s fine. I personally feel her design has taken a nose dive since her inception in Batman: The Animated Series. I loved the jester outfit. I adore the design, I think it’s cute, while still conforming to an idea of “hotness” that exists in the Batman U. I always figured the ends of her hat jingled, extra annoying the Joker. Her latest designs…. ehhhhhhh…Arkham Asylum, the nurse outfit made little sense to me design wise, but given the context of the game, more sense than just what it is. Arkham City, I could get behind, although I missed the hat. Newer DC stuff, like Suicide Squad… are we trying to slutty her up to Poison Ivy levels? And where’s her damn mask? And as for the art I’ve seen for her upcoming series… She seriously looks like a gray Juggalo. There’s very little left to her that says “Iconic Harley”, and maybe that’s what the creative team was going for. I however want to find out who okayed that design, and have a sit down with them over it.
Some of Harley’s designs; Top row, left to right: B:TAS, Arkham City game, Arkham Asylum game. Bottom row, left to right: Suicide Squad, Suicide Squad, and art from her upcoming monthly series.
But, back to the point, if you’re into Harley, and not because she’s hot, or not just because you think she’s hot, what are you trying to say here? I asked a friend what she thought about Harley, and she said something along the lines of Harley seeming like that friend you want to have, but are terrified of making angry. Alright, good view, I’d say. I then asked her what she knew of Harley’s character. She confessed that all she knew what what she saw on tumblr. She has never seen any of B:TAS (which means she is spared Harley’s accent), nor played any of the Arkham games, nor read any, and I mean at all, Harley-involving or not, Batman comics. All she knew was that Harley had a pretty cute (to her) character design, and was crazy, and she did feel the DC contest of sexualizing Harley’s suicide attempts was pretty disgusting (as do I; why couldn’t be “Harley enjoying a relaxing bubble bath with no suicide attempt”? That would have been better).
I told her about Harley’s relationship with the Joker (which, let’s face it, is a terrifying abusive one), her near co-dependence on him and Poison Ivy (although Ivy seems to genuinely care about Harley’s well being, where the Joker mixes between affection/confusion/attempts to murder when it comes to her), her canon brilliance as a psychiatrist who fell for a crazed inmate, and more. She was… well… rather disturbed. And as she quite should be. As much as I enjoy the Batman universe, and the stories that come from it, everyone is batshit insane except for maybe Alfred. So, given the universe, Harley should, of course, be no different from anyone else in that regard. And yet, hers is a character I find to be one of the most disturbed. A brilliant and powerful young woman in an extremely abusive relationship, subservient and submissive to the point that I truly pity her character (Ivy once told her in reference to Harley asking if she let people walk all over her that if she had a middle name, it would be Doormat), hailed as probably one of the more favorited Batman characters.
Is Harley hot? Sure, depending on who is in charge of the art. Is she powerful? She’s rather intelligent and skilled and has access to a wide array of crazy weaponry. Is she loyal? To the point that it’s to her detriment. Love makes people do crazy things and all that, but still. Whenever my boyfriend, or my male friends, or hell, even my female friends, say something about having a thing for Harley, I can’t help but wonder what they mean by that. Just on the basis of finding a character design attractive, fine, whatevs, I’m behind that. But as a character who more than once has been shown to be unable to function without the Joker around, who puts up with his jealousy and rage and his attempts on her life, who is so love-blind and so submissive that it’s truly depressing at times to see.. I don’t know.
I will say that there are times where Harley is brilliant, and can be strong and independent without the Joker, and without much from Ivy. I honestly loved her in Gotham City Sirens, although I enjoyed that in general since it was just a fun read. There have also been times where she realizes the Joker’s plans to kill her, and she stops him. I haven’t read too much of the new 52 Batman lines, and who knows. Maybe her character will be less pitiful in the next few years.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this, and everyone just really likes cute clown girls. At least I hope that’s all it is. Otherwise, it makes me wonder what my boyfriend really wants out of me as a girlfriend. And I’d love to hear your general thoughts about her appeal as well. Tell me I’m wrong, or it’s just a visual design thing. I ain’t mad you like her, I’m just curious as to why.