The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Romanticizing Abuse - Joker and Harley


Let me be clear, if you are a fan of the Joker, I have no problem. If you are a fan of the of the Joker and Harley Quinn, I have no problem. If you find their story and dynamic fascinating, then I have no problem. Hell, I find them to be great characters with an interesting story and dynamic. But if you find it romantic, cute, and something to aspire to in your own relationship, then, quite frankly, you either missed the point, you're an idiot, or you're just plain sick.

What prompted this entry? For a while now, I've been seeing these memes of Joker and Harley popping up as a lovey dovey couple and a romance that "weirdos in love" should aspire to. And it's not just one or two people I've seen doing it, it's a lot of people. Fans of comics and even comic creators have been doing this. And I stare at them all dumbfounded.

Here's a few examples. There are more. There are a lot more.

Several years ago, a friend of mine told me that she was creeped out by people who got tattoos of the dark mark from JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. To her, the dark mark represented racism, fascism, outright Nazism. In the series that is definitely true, but for real life I admit I thought she was taking it a little bit too seriously. I understand her point of view better now when I see all of these postings, means, pictures, etc that people are posting for their significant others of the Joker and Harley Quinn as if this is the relationship they want to have. And it sickens me.

The Joker doesn't love Harley Quinn. In his own words, Harley is his "henchwench". Nothing more to him, nothing less to him. She is a tool. She is being used. She is being abused. She goes crawling back for more. This isn't a love for the ages, this is Nicole Brown Simpson and OJ. This is Edward being creepy and controlling of Bela as written by people who know better than Stephanie Meyer. This is NOT SOMETHING TO ASPIRE TO!

If you "weirdos in love" want to aspire to any romance, Gomez and Mortica Addams comes to mind. There are also much better villainous couples out there.

As for why Harley and Joker are a vile relationship to emulate? Let me start with a video I've been posting in response every time I see that meme.

Can't watch videos? Let's take a look at key pages from the comic that was based on.

Still not good enough? Still not convinced? Then let's take a look at the real life equivalent of all this.

Every time you say you want what Joker and Harley have, this is what you're saying you want.

*Drops the mic*


  1. You weren't kidding about some of those graphic images. That said, I can relate to your frustration about how fans see this "dynamic". As you said, there's nothing wrong with liking certain characters for various reasons, even flawed or evil ones. I mean, cable dramas have rode that for years. And people are gonna cosplay as they want and so on. But I do concur that missing the point about Joker & Harley, that they're an abusive couple, is about as blatantly unsavory as bigots or homophobes who are fans of the X-Men. Did they even pay attention to the media they loved so much? Did any of those themes or morals sink in at all?

    Joker is a great villain (but also overused). Harley is in some ways more flexible, as she can shift from being a flawed and abused villain to being a quirky anti-heroine a lot easier. What they have is abuse, not love. Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and company couldn't have made it any clearer. Hell, this is one area where DC Comics themselves have gotten it. Harley's spent more time in the comics with Poison Ivy than with Joker for this reason. Hell, in the New 52, they took this further to "reveal" that Joker had coaxed previous women to serve as his "Harleys" who eventually were murdered and/or died; Harleen was just the latest. So this is one area where the company itself couldn't have been more clear about this, and a large segment of the fandom didn't quite absorb it.

    1. "Hell, in the New 52, they took this further to "reveal" that Joker had coaxed previous women to serve as his "Harleys" who eventually were murdered and/or died; Harleen was just the latest. So this is one area where the company itself couldn't have been more clear about this, and a large segment of the fandom didn't quite absorb it."

      Seriously? I never heard of this. And it makes so much sense.

    2. Yes. It was in an arc of "Suicide Squad" (I think before it became "New Suicide Squad") back when Joker was running around with his face stapled to his skull and wearing a janitor's uniform a lot in full "torture porn" mode. Joker even chained Harley up in a room full of skeletons of "previous Harleys".

  2. The romanticization of abusive fictional characters (Joker, Grant Ward, Edward Cullen, etc. etc.) will never cease to annoy/anger (depending on how I'm feeling at the moment) me.

    1. People who like AoS should be drug out into the street and shot.

    2. AoS is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Ward stans and Skyeward shippers are the worst part of that fandom. They need to realize the Ward is an unrepentant villain and stop harassing the writers at cons.

    3. Well, in this case, we know why. They're watching Special Snowflake and the SHIT Squad... so of course their brains are rotted.

    4. No, they're just inherently stupid to realize Ward is a creep with or without watching the show.

    5. AoS fans, well, AoS are EVIL, evil right down to their cold black hearts which pump not blood like yours or mine, but rather a thick, vomitous oil that oozes through their rotten veins and clots in their pea-sized brains which becomes the cause of their Nazi-esque patterns of violent behavior. Do you understand?

    6. I seriously hope this was all a joke.

      AoS sucks, I've no idea why people would bother regularly watching it, even moreso actually enjoying it, but seriously, THIS is extreme.

  3. Fantastic post. You can think fictional characters are great but don't idolise them and their actions. Like Demona is an amazing character, but everyone should be able to see that she wants to commit genocide and that's not something to idolise. Same goes with any character on Venture Bros, or a lot of Game of Thrones characters.

    I remember the Batman TAS eps where they focused on Harley and the Joker's relationship, and I can't think of one that didn't have the Joker try and kill Harley at some point. But because of the cartoon not showing the graphic detail of their abusive relationship, because it's still a cartoon, and having constant endings where Harley forgives the Joker, like real life abuse victims sometimes do, but played to comic effect sets up some fans to think that they're just a wacky comedy couple.

    I think the Nu52 comics have split them up, hopefully for good but I'm not holding my breath. Thanks Dread for posting that "previous Harleys" image as I didn't know that had happened.

  4. It's common in all fandoms, not exactly healthy for them to romanticize certain villains.

    As a huge Nightmare on Elm Street fan, I noticed fans tend to ship Freddy and Nancy for no reason. I actually confronted them on this years ago and the response I got? Well it can be summed up as "It's fanfiction, we can do what we want." Make of that what you will but it's all kinds of wrong. First of all, even when it's not explicitly stated in the original film, Freddy's a child molester who's killed her friends. Second, in the remake; he licked Nancy and called her his "favorite."

    I love the films but I am not stupid enough to call Freddy and Nancy a "couple." Personally I blame Andrew Lloyd Webber and E.L. James for romanticizing obviously creepy dudes.

  5. I still don't get why this happens and what I'm supposed to say to it when I see it. I mean...did these people seriously miss that part where the Joker is pure, unadulterated EVIL on top of being a psychopath, mass-murderer, and abusive boyfriend? And where Harley's a very mentally damaged woman with extremely low self respect who's bought into a delusion that Joker is somehow a misunderstood angel needing of some loving underneath his monstrous nature and thus she aspires to submit to this guy who flat out doesn't deserve any nice treatment from her or anyone?

    I can't. I seriously can't.

  6. I'm pretty sure Dini didn't even intend their relationship this way. In fact I'm positive. And in fact, I think Dini doesn't romanticize the Joker at all, purposefully. Dini`s Joker is pathetic. He's crazy, he's unpredictable, he thinks outside of the box. But there's nothing profound or special about him. Since Harlequinade (which as I`m sure you know is where that `sometimes my puddings a little rough`line came from) the Joker and Harley`s relationship has been destructive.

  7. why so serious? let people ship what they want. Shipping something dosen't equal wanting that sort of reationship IRL + both the joker & harley have killed people. fans aren't as stupid as you think, well most fans aren't. no matter how crazy Harley is that's not an excuse. They should both be locked away. But it's a comic, not real life