Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Speaking of Suicide Squad, there's a scene in the film in which Joker asks Harley to die for him. Then he says that's too easy, and he asks her to live for him. She dives into what appear to be vats of chemicals, and he dives in after her. As their clothing dissolves, they make out.

When Harley Quinn first appeared on Batman: The Animated Series in 1992, her origin story was that she was a psychiatrist who fell in love with the Joker. She chose a life of crime out of love for him. Over time, viewers learned that Harley had an abusive childhood, which made her acceptance of the Joker's violence and lack of love for her more comprehensible. Nevertheless, Harley was different from most psychotic villains. She chose to be who she is. She was empowering.

DC Comics altered this radically 20 years later. In Suicide Squad Vol. 4, #2 (May 2012), writer Adam Glass retcons Harley's origin story. We discover that Harleen Quinzell did NOT choose to become a villain. Rather, she was pushed into a vat of acids by the Joker -- which bleached her skin white and gave her red and blue hair. Joker calls the now-insane psychiatrist Harley.

The problem with this retcon is that it removed Harley's agency. In other words, being a villain was no longer her choice; it was the Joker's. It disempowered Harley. It made her a victim. It made a woman less than the man who made her.


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