The most tragic aspect of Harley Quinn’s ‘Suicide Squad’ story is hidden in plain view

08.08.16 1 year ago

It”s Monday morning and the numbers are in: Suicide Squad dominated its opening weekend. The film did especially well with women. Almost as if ladies have been waiting for a female superhero/antihero character to be given top billing. Yes, Will Smith”s Deadshot is the main character of Suicide Squad, but you”d never know it from the Harley Quinn-centric trailers.

Margot Robbie”s performance was one the film”s highlights for me. The actress was committed to showing Harley as a complex, damaged human being. It”s not her fault the script was written in six weeks and therefore both incoherent and gave Harley absolutely nothing in the way of a character arc. I thoroughly believe that in more capable hands, a Harley Quinn solo film could be fantastic and poignant.

WARNING: SUICIDE SQUAD SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT.

There are hints of Harley”s ongoing tragic entanglement with her abusive boyfriend, but Suicide Squad never delves into it. Harley sees the Joker as a good partner and weirdly, the movie itself does as well. Despite that Joker tortures Harley, that he leaves her to drown during date night, and that he convinces Harley to jump into the vat of ACE Chemicals in what was clearly a murder attempt (before a last second change of heart), Suicide Squad paints Joker and Harley as #RelationshipGoals. We”re supposed to cheer when the Joker rescues his girlfriend, not cringe that she was so close to escaping the cycle of abuse.

Rumors are abundant that other cuts of the film did indeed acknowledge the Joker doesn”t make good boyfriend material. Allegedly the Joker and Harley fight post-electroshock but pre-chemical bath and the Joker backhands Harley before sweet-talking her back into his good graces. Originally the Joker supposedly pushed Harley from the helicopter to kill her instead of saving her, and the scene from the trailer where the Joker throws a grenade while half his face is messed up was from a fight with the Squad when Harley refuses to come home with him. Now all this is to be taken with a grain of salt, but it goes a long way to explaining the uneven tone of the relationship in the final cut where the Joker is clearly being abusive but the movie is no longer acknowledging that aspect.

It would also explain the subtle subplot that Harley Quinn lost twins prior to the beginning of Suicide Squad. I know it sounds crazy, but the clues are all there.

The first hint is from the infamous ‘how long did it take Joker to set up that circle?” sequence from the trailers. In the scene, one of the Joker”s lackeys comes in with the good news that Harley”s prison location has been discovered. As the Joker laughs, the camera pans away to reveal guns, knives, money, wine, and roses. Further out are computers and…baby clothes? Weird to be sure, but that could just be the Joker being his old psychopath self.


Image Credit: Warner Bros.

It isn”t until the climax of the film that the baby clothes take on a more tragic implication. When the Enchantress causes “heart”s desire” hallucinations within the Squad, Harley”s is shocking in its normality. The Joker and Harley have twins and a lovely home. At the end of the day, Harley wants to turn on the dryer, feed her babies, and send her loving husband to work. She wants to be a wife and a mom. Personally, I have no issue with this. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a wife and a mother. Having the desire for suburban bliss doesn”t negate Harley”s personality or independence. Assuming no woman wants to be a stay-at-home-mom is just as bad as assuming ALL women want to.

Harley”s fantasy also throws an early scene into new context: Diablo”s confession. When it”s revealed the pyrokinetic gangbanger set his wife and children on fire in a fit of rage, Harley”s response is a savage “Own that shit.” She then goes on a mini-rant about how people like them don”t get to have normal lives where they wash clothes and go to work. It”s vicious and condescending and seems fairly out of character for the usually bubbly antihero…until the context of Harley”s heart”s desire. Harley wasn”t looking down on Diablo”s futile attempts at a home life, she was both jealous and enraged. Here was someone proving you could make a stab at suburban bliss and what did Diablo do with his perfect life? Burn it to the ground.

Why is Harley”s envy important? It proves that on some level she knows the Joker is never going to be the husband and father she wants. Which brings me back to the baby clothes. I”ve said before the DC Film universe reminds me more of the Injustice or Justice Lords timeline. Now I”m saying it again.

Originally, Injustice: Gods Among Us was a ‘darkest timeline” video game where the death of Lois Lane turned Superman into a supervillain that must be stopped at all costs. The fighting game spawned a comic-book series to further explore this alternate DC Universe. One of the most unlikely friendships is the one that blossoms is between Harley Quinn and Black Canary. When Canary stops to barf in the middle of a fight, Harley deduces Dinah is pregnant and refuses to continue their scuffle. On top of that, she drops this bomb on the world:


Image Credit: DC Comics


Image Credit: DC Comics

This series of panels are some of the most devastating moments of insight into Harley Quinn”s psyche. On some level, she knows the Joker is a piece of garbage, that he treats her terribly and could never be trusted to help raise a baby. She”s self-aware enough to rescue her daughter from a life of abuse. But – like many victims of domestic violence – she”s still unable to free herself from the cycle. Harley convinces herself that she can “love her man into wellness,” that if she”s good enough, perfect enough, one day he”ll wake up to his ways and change.

Now take that backstory and bake it into Suicide Squad. The baby clothes, Harley”s reaction to Diablo”s origin, and her suburban dream all take on a new light. Whether she gave birth to twins and gave them up, or lost them in a myriad of ways (natural miscarriage, miscarriage during a bout of abuse, abortion), there”s is enough evidence for eagle-eyed fans to indicate there were bouncing baby Jokers at some point in Harley Quinn”s past.

If we”re lucky, her solo film will go into the deeply disturbing nature of Harley”s relationship to the Joker. If we”re super lucky, it”ll even begin to distance her from his abuse, setting her free to be more like her current comic book counterpart.

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