‘Suicide Squad’ fails its biggest star Harley Quinn

by KC

Written January 25th, 2016

Making a film based on the Suicide Squad as a foundation for a massive franchise carries a lot of risk; the film can draw viewers to see the wacky, more dangerous side of this superhero universe but it could detract moviegoers who aren’t familiar with these B and C-lister villains. That’s why I find this film so interesting: it’s not a superhero movie but rather a supervillain team-up starring characters who’s motives and agendas aren’t to save the world. Enter: Harley Quinn.

Harley Quinn is far and away one of the most interesting characters in the medium, and is one of the film’s leading characters. She is strong, brash and complex, not least because of her infatuation with The Joker. She is broken from her childhood abuse yet manages to rise from it to become a college graduate. However, the real reason she is so interesting is because she acts on her own agenda.

Harley Quinn’s origin is one of my favorites. While so many supervillains begin as small-time crooks, Harley Quinn instead was a brilliant and successful woman. She completed a doctorate degree in criminal psychology and managed to find work in the most prestigious hospital in Gotham. However, her  own definition of insanity and intense interest in order and chaos pushed her to work in the ultimate madhouse: Arkham Asylum. This is where she meets The Joker, and her life of crime begins.

Harley felt sympathy and compassion for The Joker, and began a fierce and violent relationship with him. She fell under his spell as The Joker said everything that Harley wanted to hear, manipulating the mental strain from her terrible childhood. Together, with her giant mallet in hand, they began sprees of crime across the city, leaving Batman and his Bat-family to stop them. This is why she is such a beloved character: she didn’t fall into this life of crime, she willingly walked toward it. She copied The Joker’s quirks and aesthetic because she loves him, and wants to join him because of her fascination with chaos and this man who embodies it. Even when she’s not going back and forth into The Joker’s arms, she’s kicking ass with Poison Ivy or leading the charge with the Suicide Squad.

And in one small clip found in the new ‘Suicide Squad’ trailer, all of that is lost. She’s still a badass and she still manages to stand out in this eclectic mix of uncanny characters and talented actors, but her agency is lost by The Joker. Instead of choosing this life of crime, she’s led into it. As seen in the trailer, The Joker is holding Harley as she lies in the vat of acid that The Joker surely fell into earlier in the film’s timeline. Her agency, her choices, were taken out of her hands and into The Joker’s. With that, she becomes less of her own character and more of another victim of this vicious Clown Prince of Crime.

I don’t mean to say I’m disappointed with this adaptation of the character. I think Margot Robbie is the greatest actress to portray her. I think that was impeccable casting. I still think she’ll steal the film. I’m just disappointed that she has to be another fantastic, incredible, amazing character that has to be some byproduct or invention of a male character. Additionally, though I’ll leave this short, I hate that she has to be sexualized for the male audience. She’s a feminine yet assertive woman, not sexy meat. Give it a fucking break.