Harley Quinn is hands down my favorite DC character! My first introduction to her character was from Batman The Animated Series when I was about 8 or 9. She was, horrifyingly, the type of person I wanted to be, because she seemed fun and strong, yet madly obsessed. I remember thinking she was a ditz, but then I realized that she had a well-earned psychiatric degree. The only thing that burns my buttons about her degree is that the writers and audience alike don’t know the difference between a PhD in Psychology, versus an MD in Psychiatry. Harley Quinn was a licensed medical doctor, people!
People find it amazing that someone so smart and used to dealing with mental illness could fall for someone as crazy and abusive as The Joker, but even as a child, I totally understood how it could happen. Sure, the Joker is violent and insane. However, he’s very charismatic, funny, manipulative, and gave her the attention she craved. More importantly, she wanted to be the thing that changed him. He was “softer” with her than with other people, so he cared. She was willing to shape herself into the things he wanted, because she loved him, and he had affection for her. Deranged affection that completely reshaped her mind, yes, but affection, nonetheless!
This observation is borne out through almost all Batman related media that tells the story of how Harley Quinn came to be, including the book Harleen. Harleen tells the story of Harleen Quinzel, and how she came to be Harley Quinn. It tells the story from her perspective with third-person narratives interspersed between Batman and Harvey Dent.
The story was very bittersweet to me, because it is about Harley reminiscing on her life, how she got here, and her future hopes and dreams. You have this woman who is constantly searching for something; for purpose, for love, for everything. She found her purpose, but when pursuing that, she lost all semblance of who she is/ thought she was. She found a person she loves and cares for, and would do anything for. However, Harley slowly realizes that she might never get back to who she once was, whether she wants to or not. The enduring question asked by Harleen: does any of that matter?
For Batman, most definitely! This means Harley still retains a level of innocence and purity. Batman tries to be law and order, but he’s also a beacon of light for people like Harley Quinn, who fell into the abyss through no fault of their own. That being said, what happens when you rise from the darkness and don’t recognize yourself? What happens if you have to face what you’ve done while in the darkness? Those are the questions which Harley Quinn must grapple with and answer, while also dealing with the reality that she’s in love with a maniac.
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