There is no doubt that the 2016 debut of Suicide Squad is already shaping up to be one of the most anticipated movie events that 2016 has to offer, and media coverage thus far has already seen a relatively rhapsodic response from comic and movie fans alike.
Jared Leto’s Joker has, understandably, piqued the most interest from critics, given the enormous Hollywood heavy-weight shoes he has yet to fill as DC’s most iconic super villain – the clown prince of Gotham. However, it seems that through this excitement, other characters haven’t been given the attention they deserve.
As the classic song goes, it may be a man’s world, but he is nothing without a woman, or in the Joker’s case, main lady squeeze, Harley Quinn. It could argued that the character development of each relies on the success of the other, given their tumultuous past, so in order to live up to fan expectations, the question remains: what about Harley Quinn?
Harley Quinn’s origin
Unlike most, Harley Quinn started her DC career on the small screen, first appearing in Batman: The Animated Series back in 1992, and it wasn’t until 1999, that she was finally cemented in the Batman canon, in The Batman Adventures #12. Her character was given a slightly different origin story than fans had seen before, but her appearance made resolutely identical to the Harley Quinn portrayal in the animated series.
Quinn’s origin story hasn’t changed a great deal since her inception in the DC comic book canon, and she has always been portrayed as a fundamentally good, yet trouble soul. Given her daddy issues and eventual obsession with a psychotic killer clown, there’s no blaming her, really.
Following her father’s abandonment, and her desperate need to find out why, Quinn decided to study psychology, and quickly became preoccupied with the concept that love has similarities to criminality. Using her boyfriend at the time, Harley tricks him into believing that she has killed a teacher, and his own commitment to her, led him to killing an innocent man. Racked with guilt, he begs Harley (nee, Harleen Quinzel) to kill him and pass it off as suicide; Harley obliges, but is traumatised by her actions.
Her profession then sees her being assigned to the Joker, and Harley shoes him her fragile mental state during their very first meeting. The Joker seemingly saw her coming from a mile off, and quickly manipulated Harley Quinn’s obsession… and the rest, as they say, is history.
In another version of her origin, Harley Quinn is portrayed as a psychology student, stripping to pay the bills and persistently lying about Joker having seduced her, until she is consumed with madness at the thought… which simply goes to prove, that love can truly conquer all – including sanity!
Harley Quinn’s lasting appeal
Despite being a relative lunatic, who is hopelessly devoted to the abusive clown prince, Harley Quinn has struck a chord with adoring fans worldwide. You can barely step into any Comic-Con without seeing an abundance of Harley Quinn cosplays getting up to mischief. A simple Google search reveals that, not only is she a Comic-Con staple, but that while Harley Quinn has seen numerous image changes throughout her inception in comics, animations and video games, none of them stray too far from the traditional red and black diamond patterned costumes we’re accustomed to seeing Harley Quinn wear. This, naturally, bodes the question – why does Margot Robbie look so different from tradition, and what does this mean for Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie.
Margot Robbie, meet Harley Quinn
It’s no secret that comic book fans are slightly protective and potentially a bit too particular when it comes to film adaptations of their favourite comics. Let’s face it, in some cases apprehension towards the unknown is valid – look at both Daredevil and Elektra movie adaptations. However, it seems that in more recent times, the DC Extended Universe (accompanied by Warner Bros.) has come into its own, and is starting to release some decent content – other than Ben Affleck being cast in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there haven’t been any major conflicts of opinions, until Suicide Squad.
Harley Quinn is one of the bad guys
Perhaps even more important than the perfect portrayal of a beloved superhero, is the encapsulation of a truly and terrifyingly convincing villain; this may be why the film has initially come under a deal of scrutiny. The old adage – ‘stick to what you know’ – seem to be falling out the mouths of critics, and casting potential doubt over the 2016 blockbuster. While Joker fans have breathed a tentative sigh of relief after seeing promotional images of Leto, the same can’t be said for the rest of the case – namely, Harley Quinn.
Harley Quinn’s Suicide Squad appearance
While it’s obvious that director David Ayer has been given a relative amount of creative control, it has come as a relative shock that Harley Quinn is worlds away from what fans expected the character to look like – even with the blatant New 52 nod, and even with Margot Robbie’s natural likeness to Harley Quinn.
It’s understandable that Ayer has been able to think outside of the box with Harley Quinn; there are no other films to compare her to, after all, and no precedence has thus been set, but it still raises a lot of questions. Other than the nod to the New 52 comics, there is nothing but the Harley Quinn name that offers any real resemblance to Joker’s long suffering devotee.
Some worry that deviating too far from tradition, puts far too much pressure on Robbie to honour expectations of Harley Quinn’s behaviour, and it seems that the general opinion of fans is that they’re not all that hopeful of her cinematic success once Suicide Squad hits screens next year.
Harley Quinn; behavioural analysts beware.
Some fear that the creative direction within Suicide Squad has allowed Harley Quinn to appear less psychotic and damaged than she should; that her pink and blue hair soften her somewhat, and potentially infantalise her in a way that entirely negates her psychosis, through the years of abuse she suffered at the hands of the clown prince.
It is a potentially dangerous risk to take, especially if Harley Quinn and Joker are to share any real screen time in Suicide Squad; her current appearance makes her look a lot younger, and given their tempestuous relationship, and Joker’s ability to manipulate, control and ultimately, abuse Harley may not translate well on screen, and it could come across as a more profoundly upsetting and difficult to watch dynamic than Ayer may have intended.
Of course, it could be that Ayer is simply attempting to eschew the typical Harley Quinn appearance in order to create an entirely new fan perspective of the character, but there are still fears that this may pigeon-hole Harley Quinn into the somewhat typical narratives reserved for female characters in comic book movies. This would undoubtedly be a mistake, given that Harley Quinn has been a phenomenal inception into the DC comic canon since her animated inception in 1992 – Quinn is seriously cool, and any damage to her character via her appearance, could damage Suicide Squad more than anyone could anticipate at this early stage.
Margot Robbie is Harley Quinn
Another perspective argues – what’s in an image? Does an appearance of Quinn that looks softened/weaker damage Robbie’s ability to conceptualise the established Harley Quinn character on the big screen?
Given Margot’s amazing performance in movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street, it hardly seems a stretch in her Robbie’s acting abilities to perform the crazy in love lunatic – and the creators of Harley Quinn themselves, think that Quinn looks great as she is, stating that her true essence lies in her character development, from original animated inception, until today:
“… The most important thing about her is that she’s funny… I think the bottom line, her stories always have to be fun, if not flat out hilarious… She’s really weird and funny and kind of chaotic.”
In spite of critic comments, fears and fan art, it seems that there aren’t any true negatives to Harley Quinn appearing in Suicide Squad, other than that Ayer’s direction has seemingly foregone Harley’s origin, but as far as the progress of women in cinema goes – especially women in comic book adaptations (ahem, Joss Whedon’s recent exit from Twitter) – forgoing tradition and opting for a relatively unique character perspective may be a good way to go. If Margot Robbie can pull off our beloved Harley Quinn in a manner that fans expect – and if her development allows for more than Harley Quinn being the type of woman who wears pink and is obsessed with boys, then it may be an idea to get excited about Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, because ultimately, it seems that she could be the ‘clown girl, holdin’ the gun on ya!’
All images were found via Google Images and all credit goes to original posters.