Make no mistake, Harley Quinn is not an idiot. She’s crazy, to put it mildly, but she is also brilliant. With a PhD in psychology, she was the Joker’s psychiatrist before becoming fascinated with him and ultimately falling in love. When the Joker is scarred, she snaps, and decides to take a more proactive approach to her love life. She joins The Joker in his efforts to kill Batman, and, along the way, becomes a force to be reckoned with. The character has always been written with depth, even when her story belongs to the Joker, as was usually the case in the comics.
Harley is insane, and quirky, and definitely psychotic, but she is also one of the few villains who has compassion and empathy. Harley Quinn does questionable, violent things. She tells her boyfriend in college that she killed a man, which convinces him that he needs to kill someone in turn to save her. He ends up asking her to kill him, which she does. This begins her trek towards villainy that is only heightened when she meets and falls in love the Joker. The Joker is not the kind of boyfriend you take home to your parents, and her love affair with the villain is no walk in the park.
Both are insane, but the Joker is abusive and controlling. He hits her; he takes her accomplishments for himself; he constantly bashes her; if he finds the chance to ignore her or use her as a means of distraction so he can get away, he takes it. Thiers is not a healthy love story. Like any abusive relationship, she is pulled back time and time again, the promises of love overriding the darkness that her love with him truly means. Yet, she carries on. She finds her own way, her own villainy. And while the villainy is definitely problematic, she eventually finds strength that is independent of the Joker in recent comics.
The Suicide Squad trailer told us very little about Harley Quinn. She doesn’t have very many lines, but the ones she does suggest at not only her origin story, but the true depths of crazy she possesses. The trailer suggests that Harley will be irrevocably damaged by the Joker’s extensive torture. It also hints at her acrobatic past, her stripper history from the original comics, and her weighted, unhealthy relationship with the Joker.
Harley’s story can go one of two ways in the film, and it’ll be interesting to see how the movie will take it. They could continue with her being the Joker’s right-hand woman, subjecting her to more mental torture and ignoring her traumatic past in favor of plot convenience. She could pick him over the other members of the squad, in a plan that they rigged together from the start, or one that forms once the Joker realizes her position. Or she could choose to defy him and stick with the new family she has formed, particularly with Deadshot, the leader of the suicidal band of villains/heroes. (Herians? Villeroes?) This fan is rooting for Harley to be more than a pawn, to find her own strength, and not to be defined by the Joker, or to find herself a victim of his indifferent, abusive love once more. She may be a villain, but I’m dying to see her as a villain in her own right. She can be evil, and crazy, but it would be lovely to see her as those things on her own terms.
While the trailer does an excellent job of showing off her craziness, it does not do as good of a job at showing the intelligence that the character has always possessed. It is unclear at this time if the intelligence is something that was written into the character or not, nor is it clear if her complicated relationship with the Joker will play out. What is clear is that Margot Robbie has managed to perfectly capture the insanity, the playfulness, and viciousness of Harley Quinn. She is unexpected, and underestimated, and I can’t wait to see her tear up the men who dare underestimate her.
Here’s hoping the writers are nearly as devoted to writing the character with intelligence, darkness, and the ability to be underestimated by all as Robbie seems to be.