Harley Quinn is probably one of the most popular comic book characters to date. Paul Dini first had the idea for the character when he felt that the Joker needed a new henchman in “Batman: The Animated Series” (BTAS). He was inspired by an episode on “Days of Our Lives” where Arleen Sorkin wore a jester costume in a dream sequence. Thus, Harley Quinn made her debut in the episode “Joker’s Favor” in the series and became a pop-cultural phenomenon throughout the 90s.
Harley’s character has gone through several progressions since then however. In her first origin story from the BTAS, she was known as Doctor Harleen Francis Quinzel at Arkham Asylum before encountering the Joker. There, she falls in love and sympathizes with the Joker due to his manipulation. She then breaks him out of the Asylum dressed in the iconic black and red jester costume. From there, she further becomes the villain that we all know and love, as the Joker’s girlfriend. After that, she had to learn to endure abuse from the Joker.
However, in the modern interpretation, she receives this kind of abuse much earlier in her origins in a very dark way. For instance, in the new 52 secret origins #4 comic book, Harley is pushed into a barrel of ACE, or acid, by the Joker to bleach her skin white, instead of painting it as she does in BTAS. Also, ACE chemicals are considered the same barrel that Joker was put into to bleach his skin. It looks like the ACE chemical acts as a sort of baptism to Harley, where she has now devotes her life to the Joker.
“So Harley in her earlier incarnation felt like she was the one for the Joker, that she could catch him and cure him and bring him back to humanity. But actually, in the process, she lost hers. Before she knew it she had fallen head-over-heels in love with him,” Dini said to the Entertainment Weekly.
Harley never realizes that she is Joker’s puppet in the beginning. This is best represented in Harley’s dream sequence in David Ayer’s “Suicide Squad.” In this dream sequence, she thinks about the average American family that she will have with the Joker in the future. This demonstrates that Harley is stuck in fantasy, thinking that it will eventually go her way.
The American television series, “Harley Quinn” on DC Universe, Harley starts to realize that she used to be psychiatrist and is able to handle psychological situations without a doubt. Also, in one scene, Ivy decides to plan out a scenario of having Joker picking either Harley or Batman to be dropped into a pool of acid. Joker chose Harley over Batman, pulling Harley back into reality. Harley finally realizes that she has always been mistreated by the Joker, which leads her to fully move on from and break up with Joker.
Like any kind of emancipated woman after going through a break up from a toxic relationship, Harley gave herself a new look. In “Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn),” Harley now has two blonde pig-tails, while having blue and pink dye on the edges; vibrant yellow overalls and roller skates matching her outfit.
“As I was reading all the comic books, she has tons of different outfits. In some comic books, she’s wearing more of a corset and mini-shorts, and in some, she’s wearing the full jester outfit,” Margot Robbie said to the Washington Post.
Even though it may seem like Harley has finally found her true self again, she is sometimes haunted by the past with the Joker. This is normal when moving on from an abusive relationship as the person still struggles with guilt, grief, and especially regret, which is the final obstacle she needs to overcome.
All of this trauma that Harley goes through can be seen in the “Injustice” video game series. In this, Joker is murdered by Superman, thus making Harley free in the second installment of the franchise. In one scene, she sniffs Scarecrow’s fear gas, finding herself with the Joker again in a hallucination. She realizes that this was her actual nightmare: to be controlled by Joker once again. Thus, she turns around and stands up for herself by fighting the Joker with her bone-crunching bat, enormous hammer, and two hungry hyenas.
Many people go through a variety of obstacles in order to solve situations that have impacted them on a daily basis. However, overcoming them with the aid of oneself with one’s friends leads to the birth of a better person by having the ability to apply those lessons to their future mistakes. From doing this, you are able to make a name out of yourself, similar to Harley. In the modern-day, Harley Quinn is now more of an individual character than a villainous duo with the Joker.