As many of you DC fanatics may know — as well as people who just love a great action movie — Suicide Squad was released this summer on August 5th. My best friend and I were SO PUMPED! We had watched every trailer that came out, had drooled over EVERY actor/actress casted for the roles, and had planned the exact date to go with each other. No two people could have geeked out more, or been as excited. The movie was pretty phenomenal! But I’m not writing this article to critique the film. I’m writing this article as a fan pleading the young girls, young women, and even the young men in this generation to stop obsessing over, and romanticizing, the relationship between the Joker and Harley Quinn. I can’t help it! I’m a geek! I love these comics. And nothing offends me more than their misinterpretation.
I think the number one problem is that people don’t realize that Harley Quinn is actually in an abusive relationship; Sexually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. She loves him, yes. But most people in violent and abusive relationships love their significant other; it’s part of what keeps them trapped in the cycle of abusiveness, some forever. Now, I know that people who don’t initially agree probably fall into one of two categories:
“But Julia, the movie showed how much fun they were having, sexual and otherwise. She looked happy! What are you talking about?”
“Julia, haven’t you ever heard of a dom/sub relationship? That’s what this is. Harley Quinn’s the sub in this relationship. Educate yourself before you judge people”
These are both true.
In the movie, Harley DOES appear to be happy. There’s only two scenes where there appears to be the possibility of something being wrong; The flashback she has to the Joker torturing her and the flashback she has to the Joker wanting her to fall into the vat of biochemical waste.
As for the second opinion; Yes, it most certainly is a dom/sub relationship. And obviously Harley is the sub, and the Joker is the dom. For those of you unfamiliar with these terms, allow me to briefly summarize. The words “dom” and “sub” are abbreviations for “dominant” and “subordinate”. I’m sure you know the textbook definitions of these two words. However, when talking about dom/sub relationships, these terms are allocated to partners’ different position or status in the relationship.
This normally implies the partners’ different sexual status, but in certain dom/sub relationships it also implies the partners’ different household duties. It also is important to signify in which ways the partners address each other, how they talk to each other, and how they treat each other sexually, etc. In typical dom/sub heterosexual relationships, the male is the dominant partner, and the female partner the subordinate. The dominant partner controls the submissive partner in their sexual life, but they each know that the other person is willing. The submissive in these relationships willingly gives the control.
I have many friends who are part of the dom/sub community, and I in no way find this type of relationship wrong or uncomfortable. More power to the people who are in relationships like that, they have to overcome a lot of judgement. However, this relationship between the Joker and Harley Quinn is NOT a dom/sub relationship. Harley Quinn never WANTED any of that.
“But I saw the movie! What are you talking about?!” Oh hun, I know it’s hard to believe, but the movie was based off of the comics. And I can assure you that nowhere in the comic books will you find evidence that that type of relationship is anything that Harley wanted something to do with. For anyone who has never read the comics, Harley was a counselor who worked in the psych ward that housed the Joker for a time. They developed feelings for each other, and she gave him extra attention. There was no hint at him being a part of the dom/sub lifestyle at this point because he was just a patient.
One day, the Joker asked for guns. He went on a rampage and outside friends helped him destroy the ward and kill all the workers. All of them, that is, except Harley. He kept her alive, but tortured her to the point of delusion. So now, she’s dependent on him. She’s no longer the person she used to be. His abuse of her, therefore, is just abuse. She never asked to be tortured. Never asked for the lifestyle he inflicted on her.
It irks me when people fantasize their relationship because it isn’t healthy. Sure, there are plenty of great relationships out there that are dom/sub. (A simple version would be the one in 50 Shades of Grey, though it’s a little on the innocent side. Another would be in a 1967 film called Belle Du Jour. Another would be in the 2011 film A Dangerous Method.) However, Harley Quinn’s and the Joker/s isn’t one of them. This relationship shows how when certain men have power, they just use it to take advantage of women. Then, because of the patriarchal, misogynistic society we live in, everyone just assumes everything is perfectly fine, and that the women wanted that to happen anyway. This is what allows people to sexualize women, but ignore problems where women are actually victims of circumstances placed upon them.