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#RelationshipGoals: Stop Romanticizing Harley Quinn and the Joker

December 13, 2016

Harley Quinn is rapidly becoming America’s anti-sweetheart since the most recent variation of the harlequin and her live-action movie debut by Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street) in the DC Cinematic Universe’s “Suicide Squad.”

The internet fawned over Quinn and her boyfriend, the Joker with FanFics, art, memes, and couples costumes galore! This is where the #RelationshipGoals phenomena was born.This was further encouraged by Bioworld Merch selling rubber bracelets with the hashtag printed on it at Hot Topic, along with other questionable merchandise, according to Uproxx.

The Joker has been a prominent supervillain in the DC Universe from Batman’s series since the caped crusader’s own comic debut in 1940 in “Batman #1.” The psychopathic sadist has no powers but is a criminal mastermind, holds expertise in chemistry and relies on weaponry to defeat those who stand in the way of his maniacal path. His one central origin story is unclear, not due to there being several, but because the character himself is thought to be unsure of his villainous beginning.

The Joker has been through many character evolutions since the ‘40s; some have depicted him as the insane super genius, while others have portrayed him as just your simple prankster in an essence of comedic relief, like Cesar Romero’s version for the 1960s “Batman” series.

Heath Ledger played a much more sinister Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight,” his penultimate film before his death in 2008 from an overdose of several prescription drugs. It’s speculated that this could have been caused by taking on the role of the Joker, supposedly the character’s reminiscence haunted the actor– among other potential causes.

Jared Leto was given the honor of being the next clown prince since “The Dark Knight Trilogy.” “Suicide Squad”’s had a very different visual take on on the a-typical Joker. Leto’s version had a much more modernized feel and was inspired by cartel Instagram users, but still retaining some classic characteristics in certain costume aspects and color schemes.

Harleen Quinzel, a former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, made her character debut in the TV show “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992 as the Joker’s girlfriend. Harley Quinn’s first appearance was in season one episode 22 “Joker’s Favor” and voiced by Arleen Sorkin, who took on the majority of Harley Quinn’s appearances in other animated series; later played by Mia Sara (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) in the short-lived “Birds of Prey” series from 2003. Sorkin shared the role of voicing Quinn with Tara Strong during the Arkham-verse video games.

After her popularity spiked, Quinn began appearing in DC comics, eventually gaining several of her own comic series where her classic harlequin costume evolved with each each new series. She was created as the Joker’s on-again off-again accomplice, companion and lover.

Quinn’s evolution led to a few different backgrounds, although they remain on very similar grounds.“Mad Love,” a popular graphic novel from 1994, tells character’s first origin story where Quinn is Harleen Francis Quinzel, M.D., a model student psychiatric intern, who was seduced by and falls in love with the Joker, her patient at Arkham Asylum.

She doesn’t necessarily have any legitimate powers, but has an immunity to most toxins, is a skilled gymnast and is exceptional with hand-to-hand combat. Quinzel attempted on several occasions to help her beloved escape, which led to suspicion from Arkham Asylum’s authorities and eventually was why Quinzel had her license revoked as well as becoming an inmate at her former place of work. She later escaped during an earthquake in Gotham, where she then became Harley Quinn.

Since “Suicide Squad” was building hype after its announcement, teasers and the like during the end of 2015, the newest Harley Quinn took over the internet. She was one of the most popular Halloween costumes in 2015, a year before the film was even released. For 2016, the new Joker and Harley Quinn were two of the most popular couples Halloween costumes of the year.

“Suicide Squad” is most likely the main culprit of the #RelationshipGoals malarkey. First off, a sizable chunk of Jared Leto’s scenes were removed from the final theatrical cut, much to fans and Leto’s surprise. Leto was marketed as a very prominent and main role in the film, much to moviegoers dismay, he only had maybe 15 minutes at best out of the two hours and 16 minutes of its entirety.

Leto told NME that this may have had something to do with the negative response after the film’s release. While it is unclear exactly what kind of content regarding the duo’s relationship was cut, an unofficial and unconfirmed list was published by Reddit user NayDawwwg. Eight of 22 cut scenes listed were interactions between Harley and the Joker.

The most vague, yet important, being number 20, which read “Removed several scenes with the Joker to repaint his relationship with Harley as more loving rather than abusive.”

It was speculated by Movie Pilot that the filmmakers made the drastic change because it “[couldn’t] accurately reflect Joker and Harley’s tumultuous relationship without glorifying abuse and violence against women,” Movie Pilot reported.

However, this could have been an excellent opportunity to use the comic it-girl to raise awareness. This also fails to make much sense due to Joker’s personality and psychology, which would further show how villainous he really is had their relationship been left explicit.

Creators simply can’t take away the controversy from a very controversial relationship and it should not be reduced to minor villainous antics. While it should not be taken as far to call it censorship, it feels like it sits right on that line. But the executive staff took what would have been an excellent R-rated couple and played them down to a mere PG-13.

This couple is the poster child of misogyny, stockholm syndrome, dysfunctionality and domestic violence. Harley is more often than not simply disposable to the Joker, but so madly in love that she won’t stop coming back.

In an episode of “Batman: The Animated Series,” Harley Quinn said “You’d think after living with Mr. J, I’d be used to a little pain,” while Poison Ivy is giving Quinn her toxin immunity shots. Ivy asks “Why do you put up with that clown?” which Quinn responds with “Sure, my pudding is a little rough sometimes but he loves me, really.”

In this episode, Ivy is driven crazy by Harley being willing to jump back into the Joker’s arms at his every beckoning call. Ivy then tells her she is a big forgiving doormat, “If you had a middle name, it’d be ‘Welcome.’”

She’s often practically on her knees for the Joker’s approval, let alone a moment of his attention. Harley is often reminded of how worthless she is to Joker,

Warner Bros. is giving Quinn her own spinoff film, which is already under development, one can hope that Robbie’s reprisal and involvement within the spinoff production will right the wrongs that “Suicide Squad”’s director, David Ayer, messily spewed onto DC fans.

Maybe it’s the partner-in-crime idea, the Bonnie to your Clyde, so to speak. But once you do your homework, it’s more like the Nancy to your Sid. Could it be the us-against-the-world mentality or the subconscious desire for the ultimate bad boy?

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