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It's no secret that DC has great villains. From Lex Luthor to Darkseid, the world of DC lore is packed to the brim with some truly phenomenal and memorable characters. Two of the most iconic of the bunch are Joker and Harley Quinn, but despite immense fan enthusiasm for them to steal the show in last year's Suicide Squad, the DCEU somewhat missed the mark in the handling of their dynamic.
Now, with a Joker and Harley Quinn movie on the way (as well as Suicide Squad 2), we have put together a list of ways the DCEU has thus far faltered in its depiction of the dynamic between these two insane Gotham City villains. Suicide Squad wasn't a hit with critics, but paying attention to these points could go a long way towards correcting the course. On that note, let's kick this off with a discussion about Harley Quinn's sanity.
Harley Is Not Crazier Than The Joker
Early on in Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller makes an offhand comment about Harley Quinn being "crazier" than The Joker, and "more fearless." While that's certainly a badass sentiment to describe a character who will go on to become one of the film's greatest anti-heroes, the fact of the matter is that it's simply not true in any depiction of the Joker and Harley dynamic. Make no mistakes, Harley Quinn is certainly unhinged (we can thank The Joker for that), but between the two of them, she is the one who keeps a hand firmly gripped on the monkey bars of sanity.
This is important because classifying Harley as the crazier of the duo cheapens both characters. For Joker, the reason is obvious: it makes him seem less dangerous to the audience. For Harley, it's even worse; making her somehow crazier and more fearless than The Joker takes away a layer of sympathy because it removes the sense that the real Harleen Quinzel is still inside of her trying to get out. This should be made clear in upcoming movies.
Joker Does Not Love Harley
This is something that has been echoed by DC insiders like Paul Dini and Bruce Timm before: Joker does not love Harley Quinn in the same way that she loves him. He views her as property, or as a personal work of art. While there are certainly moments in which he has shown affection for her over the years, the most traditional incarnations of Gotham's Clown Prince of Crime show him merely liking Harley at best, and downright despising her at worst. After all, The Joker only has one true love, and he wears a cape and a cowl around Gotham city at night.
Beyond that, even if Joker did love Harley Quinn, the actions that he has taken to warp her body and mind would still make him irredeemable. He pushed his psychiatrist over the edge into insanity and ruined her life; we cannot sympathize with him simply because he has a crush. To frame him as a Romeo-esque figure is to completely misinterpret what he is, and what he has done to Harley in the past.
Harley Is Not Unquestionably Loyal To Joker
On the flip side of that coin; it is also worth mentioning the fact that Harley Quinn is not nearly as blindly loyal to The Joker as the DCEU would have you believe. Does she love him most of the time? Absolutely. Having said that, she has frequently turned on him throughout her publication's history, and her inherent goodness has often shined through when he has tried to commit a major atrocity.
What's interesting to note about how this relates to the DCEU is the fact that they actually almost got this right. From what we already know about earlier incarnations of Suicide Squad, Harley was actually supposed to turn on Joker at the end of the film and break herself free from his manipulative influence. As a result, we were left with a far more passive version of Harley who does not feel as in-line with what we have come to expect from the illustrated or animated version of the red and black-clad DC villainess.
Their Relationship Is Not Something To Aspire To
Amid all of the other mistakes that the DCEU has made in its depiction of The Joker and Harley Quinn's relationship, arguably the worst offense is the fact that it has treated their dynamic as something to aspire to. Suicide Squad primarily framed them as a more extreme version of Lucy and Ricky, essentially saying "sure, they are both crazy, but love is a crazy thing anyway." That is the exact opposite of a proper Joker and Harley dynamic.
At her core, Harley Quinn is a victim of Joker's manipulation, which means the audience should never root for her to remain under his thumb -- which is one of the reasons why we love it when she DOES break away and teams up with someone like Poison Ivy. If the DCEU wants to continue their Joker/Harley story in a meaningful and faithful way, then it needs to spend more time focusing on her efforts to break away from Mr. J.