Following the many poor reviews of Suicide Squad (2016), of which I object because I loved the film, there has been a resurgence of controversy over Harley Quinn.
Before I begin I should say that I can understand why people may feel awkward about sexualisation of the only female character in the current squad. Of course in productions past we have seen many other female squad members such as Poison Ivy, Frost, Oracle, Vixen and Duchess – all who were completely bad ass, but I think people are missing the point. This being:
Harley isn’t the ‘token hottie’, she’s a legend in her own right who happens to own the fact she has a great ass – which is a totally separate thing.
Now this may sound a little sexist but I would like to offer up two main arguments as to why I think this.
1 I believe the ‘token hottie’ is the Joker in this case, and that’s been misread because of gender
2 Calling out a female character for being proud is body shaming
So let me roll with that first point in this argument. Everyone is going crazy over the Harley sexualisation but everyone is drooling over Mr J. How is that not sexist? Just because Harley is a woman she’s a bad influence and over sexualised, but I guarantee you that if you look shot by shot Harley’s butt gets far less screen time than her partners chest and low waist jeans. And logistically short clothes are better for all that sweaty action and fighting while Joker just seems to chill with his shirt off whenever he feels.
Both characters have changed image a lot in the transition to the 2016 movie and so yes, Harley has been stripped down since her signature jester cat suit but she is not the only one to get stripped off, and quite frankly it suits her persona much better. This is characterisation not sexualisation. Her new clothes are fun. Cheeky. Brattish. They’re just more Harley, less Harleen.
So spoiler alert, but isn’t that what has happened to Harley in this movie? She is crazier than the Joker, when she thinks he is dead she wipes her eyes and gets on with life, she is the ‘good guy’ who kills Enchantress in the end and doesn’t this self assertiveness show evolution. Harley Quinn isn’t Joker’s lapdog any more so why should she be dressed as a shadow of his name?
To me Harley is a fierce woman and proud of her man, change the word man to partner and boom! Not an issue – a romantic quality. Isn’t that look just a superhero eternity ring?
I know some of you are now reading this and scorning me saying ‘come on, she has property of the Joker scrawled across her jacket’ and you are right. My argument to that is simple, she is still owned by the Joker, at least her heart is, and yes the ‘puddin’ collar adds to this image but in this film at least they are on a more level playing field, because he is also owned by her. The red and blue hair of the chemical wedding shows a beautiful juxtaposition of how they are unified but separate. Her red and blue are separate but side by side. I feel that her clothes separate her from being an owned lady and make her herself. And that’s the polar opposite of oppression.
But back to the point of the Joker being the passed over hottie now I’ve explained why I personally don’t see Harley as what a lot of others seem too.
Let’s face it Jared Leto who plays the Joker is a well known heart throb. Girls fall at his feet. No discredit to Margot Robbie – she is a beautiful woman, but Jared is well known for being eye candy since the 30 Seconds To Mars days.
Why cast such a good looking man then have him half dressed when the Joker has never been a sexual symbol before? Maybe it was viewer ratings but given Jared is such a great actor too I think there were other motivations. The guy can’t be cheap to book. Heath Leger was a good looking man too but he had his face hidden in make up for a lot of the Dark Knight scenes. We even get to see a naked face Leto in Harley’s fantasy in Suicide Squad.
It is clear that Mr J has taken a momentous shift in character, which a lot of people have critiqued. Personally I was sceptical given my love for Heath Leger but I actually like this Joker. For me the Joker is such a varied, complex character no one actor can fill each side, and no writer can write his entire personality in a movie. He is just too big for one screen – so we’ve had scary Jokers, badass Jokers, logical Jokers and now a Joker with a heart. That’s beside the main point though. Slightly. The Joker has become, or the audience is seeing a new side, a romanticised character.
How many memes are going around about this? Everybody wants a love like Harley and J. The new Joker is meant to be attractive to us. In the past Joker and Harley’s relationship has been excessively violent and abusive, in Batman: Assault On Arkham the Joker even jokes about the bruises he gave her. He was not hot in this era and suddenly he’s diving into a pool of dangerous chemicals and bringing helicopters to the scene to rescue his girl. And Harley has become the sex icon? Yeah. Only if you think that’s a girls area of expertise.
Sexy is genderless and if you’re saying a sexy girl and a sexy guy are different on any level beyond biological fact, you’re a sexist. And if you think Harley’s should hide her body while thinking Mr J should show a little more you may want to rethink your perspective. If that’s t do with your sexuality I can forgive you undressing either or both with your eyes, but if these views are just vapours of society I’d take a look at it.
Do you feel bad for drooling over Jared yet? No. Me neither. But I also don’t feel bad for admiring Harley’s figure because a body is a body and hers is rockin’, which leads me to my next point.
I’ve already touched on this but I want to delve deeper here because I think it is important. But for the sake of full enclosure I should say the following few things: I like pageants, page 3 models and strip clubs so I’m not the ‘tick box’ feminist, just a person with an opinion who sometimes gets angered by inequality and sometimes let’s it slide. I’m not perfect but this is not an agenda to promote objectification. Beauty should simply be respected. I am not being a jerk when I say hot is hot.
Okay now the heavy stuff is out of the way let’s discuss how calling out the costume designers is body shaming.
When women had to hide their ankles we as a society shamed the men who made them, and now we want to shame women for uncovering? This isn’t an issue that is strictly about Harley but it solidly applies to her.
The media is full of posts asking to support larger women in lingerie adverts or disabled women in modelling and more recently helping transgender women being accepted as the women they are – and all of these are good things! So why persecute girls like Harley because they aren’t representing a minority? Isn’t this about women? We shouldn’t be taking turns as a society. Just because standard size gorgeous women have been the focus in the past does not mean they should now be pushed back as ‘sluts’ for showing less skin than the bigger girls we admire.
Harley (and Margot) is a smart, sexy, independent woman who happens to be in a relationship. She is co-dependent sure, but do people have to be perfect now or make all the right choices. Not too many people bat an eyelid at Iron Man’s crippling anxiety. Co-dependency must be horrible but for someone to be that mentally unwell and still own it – still be generally good, is an achievement. Remember that iconic Suicide Squad line ‘we’re the bag guys, it’s what we do’? It won’t shock many fans to know that Harley is generally not that evil.
And in comparison to my favourite character in the movie, Harley copes a whole lot better than El Diablo, who it seems we all sympathise for despite him killing his wife and kids. I mean kids! And we’re cool with El Diablo? Ever seen that famous Dark Knight meme where ‘everyone loses their mind’ over something simple compared to a huge issue? You can fill in the blanks.
And quite frankly we all need to channel a bit of Harley sass in bad situations. Before being beautiful and in short clothes Harley is a qualified psychiatrist, a fighter, a woman who can stand alone in the face of her biggest fear coming true, a girl who can smile through tears, the girl who saved the damn day after there was no potential to blow up her neck anymore!
And people are freaking out about her backside? And it literally is just a bit of bum and legs, the girl wears a jacket and high neck t-shirt most of the time!
Well I thought it was under ambitious to only ask for a coffee machine but clearly Harley knows how little to expect of people. All I can say is, boy, girl, genderfluid, intersex, want to claim you’re a dragon trapped in a human body – we’re equal and beautiful so get your ass out and strut it – haters are going to hate it anyway. Be bold. Be beautiful. Be Harley Quinn.
Thanks for reading!