The Problem with Romanticizing Joker & Harley Quinn's Relationship

Trigger Warning: Emotional Abuse, Abusive Relationships

 

After the release of Suicide Squad this summer, it seems that Joker & Harley Quinn couples costumes are more popular than ever this Halloween. Dressing up as a couple can make Halloween a lot more fun, and some of the best ones aren’t actually couples:

Chuck & Wilson the volleyball from Castaway

 

Waldo & Wizard Whitebeard from Where’s Waldo? (source: Modern Family)

 

The Joker and Harley Quinn aren’t a couple either. You might believe otherwise based on Suicide Squad, but the Joker isn’t as nice to Harley in the comics as he is in the new movie. The Joker and Harley Quinn are one of DC Comics' most well-known couples, and their relationship is traditionally deliberately portrayed as deeply unhealthy and tragic. Harley tolerates the Joker’s abuse and learns to automatically swallow her true feelings without realizing that she’s with a man who is taking advantage of her. The Joker is not Harley’s love interest, but rather, her abuser. Despite this, people still seem to romanticize their relationship. I’ve seen memes like this one below floating around:

They are a wild duo, and Harley is really awesome and badass on her own, but she’s not awesome due to her relationship with the Joker and the way he treats her is definitely not awesome, either.

Harley’s submissive attitude towards Joker’s behavior arguably presents her character as someone with Stockholm Syndrome (Stockholm Syndrome according to Encyclopædia Britannica is defined as “a psychological response wherein a captive begins to develop feelings of trust or affection and identify closely with his or her captors, as well as with their agenda and demands”).

Before Harley met The Joker, she was an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist named Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel. The Joker is not Harley Quinn’s origin story. She was a completely different person before she met him and their relationship is a twisted one built on manipulation.

Harley Quinn’s origin story is:

Dr. Harleen Quinzel was a psychiatric intern at Arkham Asylum. A model student, in addition to receiving high grades in college, she was also a dedicated gymnast, winning a scholarship to Gotham City University. While researching the lunatics at Arkham, she became fascinated with one particular inmate. Ambitiously volunteering to analyze him, she pleaded with the doctors at Arkham for three months before she could treat him. After he gained her sympathy during their sessions, he seduced her, causing her to fall madly in love with him. After helping him escape from the asylum more than once, Harleen was suspected by the authorities, who revoked her license and placed her in her own cell. During a earthquake in Gotham City, she fled and became Harley Quinn, the sidekick of the Clown Prince of Crime himself. (batman.wikia.com) Watch the origin story here.

What Harley doesn’t realize is that the Joker doesn't love anybody except himself. Obsession is the next closest feeling he can have for someone, and only Batman is worthy of that.

The degree to which Harley’s life has been taken over completely by the Joker is just one example of the tragic long-term consequences of emotional abuse. On Halloween and especially in real life, remember that Joker and Harley’s relationship isn’t worth idealizing or romanticizing (even though that is what the Suicide Squad movie decided to do). If you are looking for a scary costume, the Joker is one of your best bets, as he is a villain in so many ways. Don’t aim for a fictional and harmful relationship, aim for a real one.

 

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