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Harley Quinn | From key chain to empowered character


"Me I don't believe she is strong, in this sense. When I played Jane in Tarzan, she did have incredible inner strength. Harley, no way. She's in pieces inside, although she has incredible physical strength.” – Margot Robbie, interview for Omelette in 2016

This statement was controversial and surprised many people. As well, the actress does not see Harlequin as a determined woman and representative of the girl power? Well if you watched the famous Suicide Squad, you will soon understand why the actress says this about the character she plays on the big screen. The producers have the possibility to modify the characters they are adapting and in the case of Harlequin they did not make that choice. Unfortunately, the culture of objectification of women remains present in Hollywood and it is up to the public to show that they are not satisfied with that. Little is shown of the character's origin and this article is for that. Demeaning this character so rich with a story that many choose to ignore.

Meeting Dr. Harleen Quinzel

She was born with the name Harleen Quinzel and was raised in the midst of a completely unstable family. We know that his mother was a severe figure, his father was part of the crime and his younger brother was preparing to follow in his father's footsteps. The girl went the other way. She studied psychiatry and was preparing a job that would demonstrate the psychic similarities between committing a crime and being in love. As a guinea pig, she uses her boyfriend, Guy, to involve him in some crimes and in a complex murder.

Due to his obsession, Harleen ends up becoming a Joker companion / Reproduction

After all this mess, Guy was very moved, consequently, depressed and tried to kill himself several times and as he did not succeed, he asked Harleen to end his suffering. She kills her boyfriend in a way that everything looks like a suicide. Disturbed by the events, she believes that the universe is driven by chaos, and begins to feel a kind of connection with a criminal who is in Arkham, the Joker.

Obsessed with him, she helps him escape from Arkham several times, until she becomes the Joker's partner. Batman finds out and traps Harleen in Arkham, but later she manages to escape and reunite with the Joker, using the code name Harlequin. But what she felt for him becomes more intense and this ends up shaping his personality. The character becomes unbalanced, unpredictable and unreliable. In addition, she lives in an abusive relationship with the Clown King of Crime and she makes all kinds of excuses to explain the violence suffered, saying many times that this is the Joker's way of expressing his love for her… Here we see that the fiction it does not imitate reality, it represents it in a real way.

"My love for the Joker is stronger than the walls of a nursing home!"

One thing that is not very clear is its transformation into Harlequin that, unlike the Joker, it is the same in all comics, with small differences depending on the edition of the comic. However, in some she appears as a non-exemplary student who bribed the teachers to get good grades and in another more famous origin is that the girl was thrown into a container, large, by the way, of chemical substances by the villain Joker and, therefore, , she looked a little pale and that version was used in the film Suicide squad.

Read too Review: Suicide Squad

Getting to Know Harlequin

Originally, the name of the fictional DC Comics character is Harleen Frances Quinzel, which usually appears as the enemy of Batman in the DC universe. It was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm for the animated television series Batman: The Animated Series, appearing for the first time in the episode “Joker's Favor” (“A Favor for the Joker”), in September 1992. Initially, the goal of Dini and Timm was just an appearance, however, the reception by the public and critics, the character was included in several episodes and since then we had the transition from Harlequina to the comics in September 1993 and its total inclusion in the DC universe in 1999, with the comic Batman: Harley Quinn.

Harlequin and Joker together / Reproduction

It is described as a anti-heroin and today she is one of the most iconic female characters in the universe of Gotham City, along with Cat Woman and poison ivy. For your knowledge, the three have already formed a gang known as Gotham City Sirens, Gotham Mermaids, which had a comic book series with 26 editions between 2009 and 2011. Its origin is told in the comic “Mad Love", February 1994, winner of the Eisner Award (award that distinguishes achievements in comic books).

The character is inspired by the production Days of Our Lives, who in one of the episodes wore a silly uniform whose characterization of Dini's character is very similar. In fact, the actress who played the character of this soap opera voiced the voice of Harlequin in Batman: The Animated Series. Another detail, his name was inspired by the harlequin, so that it was a joke in relation to the original name, Harleen Quinzel.

“Do you know what a harlequin is? The harlequin's function is to serve. He's nothing without a master. And nobody gives a damn who we are beyond that.”

Harlequin was inspired by a character from the production Days of Our Lives / Reproduction

What some don't know is that Arlequina is bisexual and ends up having a relationship with Hera Poisonous, who many times tried to convince her that the Joker didn't value her as a partner – he always mistreated her and in the episode “Harley and Ivy“, Joker expels Harlequina very violently from her gang which leaves her frustrated. The abusive relationship between Harlequin and Joker is one of the most problematic in the DC Universe and this is a problem, as it is a construction in which many do not see any harm and romanticize this type of relationship.

However, it was from the reboot of The New 52 which ensured a series of her own for Arlequina, being portrayed as an anti-heroine, acting as a vigilante rather than a criminal, and the success of the production guaranteed the series' renewal on DC Rebirth, with the first edition of Harley Quinn Rebirth #1 in August 2016 with more than 400,000 copies sold. Some say that sales were boosted due to the strong marketing of the film Suicide squad.

Harley Quinn One Strange in the Nest (The New 52) / Reproduction

The character has already been played by many actresses like Arleen Sorkin in Batman: The Animated Series, in addition to other DC productions. Other actresses who played anti-heroin were Tara Strong and Hynden Walch. Despite this, the first actress to play her was Mia Sarain the television series Birds of Prey. But it was with the performance of Margot Robbie that Harlequin debuted in theaters in 2016, in the film Suicide squad. In addition to being on the list of the “100 Greatest Comics Villains of All Time” by Imagine Games Network (IGN), she was classified as the biggest villain of the last years in the list of Comics Buyer's Guide of “100 Sexiest Women in Comics”.

"If we don't want to have unpleasant deaths, we'll have to work together."

Harley Quinn and her powers

In her human origin, she was a psychiatrist who got involved with the Joker and gave what she gave. After the Joker tried to kill her with a missile, the Poison Ivy gave him a potion that recovered it and granted it some abnormal characteristics such as increased strength, agility, speed and immunity against any type of toxin. A curiosity is that Harleen had been a gymnast as a child and uses this ability to make the best use of her powers. In addition, she can make big jumps with great ease, because her legs are very strong. Another detail is that the character is very good in disguise and has a good arsenal of weapons and accessories, ranging from the well-known giant hammer, baseball, to your custom pistols as we saw in Suicide squad.

On the small screen and on the big screens

The character is in series, in the comics and in the cinema. After the film Suicide squad, Harlequin won a movie just for her, Birds of Prey and the Fantastic Emancipation of a Harlequinin Cathy Yan, which despite having had positive reviews, did not have the results expected at the box office. However, WB believes in the potential of the character that will be in the sequel / reboot of Suicide Squad that will debut later this year with a script by James Gunn. The service of streaming DC Universe, produced an animated series focused on the character and actress Kaley Cuoco (Big Bang Theory) lent a voice to the DC Comics anti-heroine.

Kaley Cuoco voices the character in DC Universe streaming / Reproduction

Read too Review | Birds of Prey: Harlequin and its Fantastic Emancipation is a slap in the face against abuse

Harley Quinn | and the extreme sexualization of female characters

The character is a good example of how women have been portrayed in the audiovisual and the character's outfit doesn't just bother the actress who plays her, Margot Robbie, it also disturbs the female audience. It is not new that many characters follow the formula of pleasing by appeal at the expense of the real features of the work. If you carefully analyze the characterization and aspects of the uniform of all members of the Squadron, you will notice that the Gunslinger has a hundred pockets, vests (probably bulletproof), Captain Boomerang wears a coat and above all to “store” his weapons, Magic has that crazy look that reveals and doesn’t reveal, Katana has a simple outfit that allows her to be agile and not at all revealing and the problem is due to the characterization of the Harlequin.

Realize how the uniforms are super different and how the Harlequin stands out / Reproduction

How to explain a micro short and a blouse that is often wet and super tight? There is no need to show the character's changing clothes in front of many men. So, just as you didn't need to have a camera going from head to toe while the character is dressing. All of this is part of the direction that chose to highlight the girl's attributes at the expense of the character's real personality and this becomes a very big flaw in the eyes of those who watch and those who produce.

We don't need to be reminded that the Harlequin has a big body, but a story. For the trailer, the film would be top and it was this effect that made the viewer pay the ticket and guarantee the box office, but the result was not so good. With the characterization of such a strong character being based on values of the last century that chooses the body that will strike, instead of the stroke itself. But what generates doubt is whether director David Ayer had the notion that this would be a controversy?

“She wears short shorts because he's bright and funny, it's not for guys to look at her butt (…) Like Margot, no, I don't like wearing that.” – Margot Robbie, interview for the New York Times

Yes, and you don't have to be very smart to admit it, because using the character's madness, the idea that she has that provocative side (like she licking the prison cell) is already meaningless paranoia. You see, who brings together the Suicide Squad is Congresswoman Amanda Waller, played by Viola Davis, who commands the team and everything goes through her, from the weapons to what each one would wear. For what bizarre reason, she being a woman, would allow such a outfit for Harlequin? “Ah, it's a girl's personality trait and we are going to let her dress as she likes”, did that cross Amanda Waller's mind? Of course not! They are going to a war and not to a nightclub to dance to the ground.

Didn't understand the question? If we examine the films Suicide Squad (2016) and Wonder Woman (2017), the first directed by a man and the second by a woman, we will see that the vision of the female characters is quite different. In the film directed by David Ayerwe have Margot Robbie like Harlequin. In a certain scene, she breaks a window in a jewelry store and bends down to pick up the item and the movement, the framing of the camera focuses on the girl's butt. Thus, we see that the attribute shown is not the personality of the character, but whether she is beautiful or not, whether she is sexy or not. At every moment in the plot, we see her sexualized, wearing short clothes or showing a large part of her body.

Read the review: Wonder Woman in double dose this year

Unlike the production of Patty Jenkins, whose character is a warrior from the tropical area and for that reason she also has a dress, but not like the Harlequin. In Jenkins' view, the trench scene evidences that we have a sexy but powerful heroine. At that moment, we see Diana coming up the stairs and the camera frame takes a part of her leg and when we see her, she is walking to the front of the battle to protect and defend the people for whom she fights. She is a very beautiful character, but what makes evident by the construction of the director, is not only the beauty, but the determination and courage of the character.

Does anyone explain what happened between the Suicide Squad Harlequin and Birds of Prey?

If you watched Suicide squad 2016 and Birds of prey: Harlequin and its Fantastic Emancipation from 2020, the character was transformed and the change was noticed by the general public and makes us question what happened between the features. Simple, the production itself of the feature film of 2020 has in its structure, women who do not want to be represented as objects, but as thinking and worthy human beings.

To recap, in the 2016 feature film, the character is rescued by Jared Leto's Joker and follows the ball. However, Birds of prey it shows a completely different narrative, with the protagonist united with other powerful characters in different adventures and this has been announced since the beginning. If you didn’t get the brief, previously Harley Quinn continues to have a relationship with Joker, but the troubled relationship ends with the clown throwing his ex-partner on the streets of Gotham City – leaving her devastated and this great event was responsible for her emancipation.

Read too Birds of Prey and female-driven heroines

Aimlessly, emotionally destroyed, Harlequin was taken by Doc, an old man who owns a restaurant who let her stay in an apartment and from there shows the recovery from the breakup by watching several films and cutting the colored hair pieces and in this vibe, she is hiding the breakup of the relationship, because the position of the villain's companion guaranteed her protection in the criminal world. However, when the break is revealed, we see that this is what makes the plot offer the character a different perspective by not making the Joker the center of her life and this is where the production differs from that of 2016.

"I wasn't the only one in Gotham seeking emancipation."

The 2016 Harlequin puts on a pedestal a man who does not love her, who mistreats her, who discards her and who is super abusive. Already the Harlequin of 2020 is a fashionista, shows herself much more intelligent than she really is, fights very well, is much funnier, we see changes in her interpersonal relationships, shows her human emotions in a more real way and is much more fearless and empowered.

Unlike the 2016 feature, with a lazy and sexist look, we see a totally cool which reflects the eccentric and different personality of the character and this is already an attractive feature on the big screen. Who didn't copy her look? In addition, she is known as one of the most intelligent characters in comics and in Birds of prey she uses these skills to understand her enemies and even manipulate them.

Fun and eccentric looks are the trademark of the character / Reproduction

If in Suicide squad we died laughing with the Harlequin pictures, Birds of prey she is much funnier, crazier, answering and we see that this freedom makes her talk a lot of bullshit and jokes that guarantee the fun of those who watch. Another thing, we already knew that she is a sensational fighter, but in the 2020 film she has prominence and shows what she came for and despite being in a team, she has many scenes that value her as the moments in slow motion, with guns, baseball bat, sledgehammer and even your classic skates! 

However, a movie does not live just for fun. In 2016 production, the Harley Quinn there are more layers and as a protagonist, she shows several emotions that make us identify with her, because we see fear, sadness, hurt, anger and even an affection for the character of Cass - and for pet hyenaBruce. The relationships built show that the character really knows the people of Gotham , for example, her relationship with the Doc (Dana Lee) surprises and when he leaves, she was really hurt and that proves that villains have hearts too. Of course, in the feature film David Ayer he even tried to work on her friendship with the other characters, but in the end he was unable to deliver the same truth.

The message from Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey it becomes an impressive and striking way of showing, through a psychological analysis that presents itself in striking and real ways, that the abuses suffered by women are not frills and need to be addressed. On the other hand, the script shows the emancipation of all women, making the message of support clear. None of this would be so effective if it were not for the great performance of the entire female group, which does not need words to express their discontent with the situations.

"Psychologically speaking, revenge rarely brings the relief we hope for."

Well, I got to know a little more about this character and understand why she is so strong and important for the DC universe, in addition to the social issue that shows how much we need to change this version that women need to be a sexual object. If we want to see changes in the audiovisual, in front and behind the cameras, we need to leave CLARO that we want more equality, more equity in the treatment that we have had for a long time. This character only reinforces that we need to have changes and that we want to see from now on.



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