The Massive Changes DC Needs to Make to the Joker and Harley Quinn’s Storyline

Harley Quinn and the Joker laugh while riding in a car

Harley Quinn and the Joker | Warner Bros.

One of the most anticipated aspects of 2016’s Suicide Squad was seeing Harley Quinn and the Joker’s relationship play out on the big screen. With Jared Leto cast as the Joker and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, director David Ayer and the DC Extended Universe seemed to have all of the components to bring the twisted romance to the big screen in a spectacular way.

Unfortunately, like the rest of Suicide Squad, many DC fans left the theater feeling underwhelmed and disappointed. While Leto and Robbie looked the part and even had the chemistry to match, Suicide Squad didn’t allow them to take their characters to their full potential, leaving the audience confused about the relationship as a whole.

The DCEU used a combination of the old comics, new comics, and the animated television series as inspiration for Suicide Squad. Robbie’s Harley Quinn is a modern woman with her own deranged personality and motivations, and yet, the movie boxes her in because she is constantly waiting for the Joker to come and rescue her. Though Warner Bros., DC Films, and Ayer thankfully refrained from showing any physical abuse between the characters, the Joker emotionally abuses Harley and uses her as an object to be passed around.

Despite its missteps, Suicide Squad did kill it at the box office, giving the DCEU the opportunity to develop several new films with the characters, including Suicide Squad 2, Gotham City Sirens, and a film centered around their romance tentatively called, Harley Quinn vs. The Joker.

Still, before any of these films hit theaters, DCEU has a lot of kinks to iron out. These are the changes the studio needs to make with the Joker and Harley Quinn’s storyline to make it as epic as it should be.

Harley Quinn is no damsel in distress

Harley Quinn holds a weapon and shouts.

Harley Quinn | DC Comics

Back in 1992, Harley Quinn was introduced as the Joker’s love interest in Batman: The Animated Series. However, over the course of 20 years, she’s also gone off and done her own thing (i.e., Gotham City Sirens). In 2011, Harley permanently left the criminal to kick it with the Suicide Squad and get into her own shenanigans.

DCEU should consider tweaking the character a bit to bring her into the 21st century. Seeing Quinn lust after the Joker or even use him for her own gain (like he does with her) would be interesting to watch. However, watching her pathetically wait for him to rescue her in Suicide Squad felt too much like a damsel in distress for our liking. 

The Joker is definitely crazier than Harley

The Joker holding up a glass and smiling.

The Joker | DC Comics

One of Suicide Squads biggest missteps was classifying Harley as more insane than the Joker. That simply isn’t true. We definitely wouldn’t say that she’s got all of her ducks in a row, but it’s obvious from watching The Animated Series and reading the comics that Harley’s true self, Harleen Quinzel, still exists on some level.

Meanwhile, the Joker is certainly off his rocker. After all, he convinces Harley to go diving in a vat of acid to prove her love to him. However, while Harley can still be reigned in (to some degree), there is no hope for Tre Joker– and that’s the reason why he’s one of the most beloved villains in the DC Universe.

Theirs isn’t actually a love story

Harley Quinn pointing a bat and making a facial expression.

Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad | Warner Bros.

This Is Us and Crazy, Stupid, Love writer-director duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are bringing Harley Quinn vs. the Joker to the big screen. According to Variety, the film is going to be “an insane and twisted love story. When Harry Met Sally on benzedrine.”  From the working title and the fact that Ficarra and Requa have hit the nail on the head so far with their work, we have hopes that they might get this one right.

After all, the Joker doesn’t actually love Harley Quinn. He’s intrigued by her and attracted to her, yes, but he only sees her as his plaything– someone to do his bidding. When Harley was merely Harleen Quinzel, the Joker’s psychiatrist, he manipulated her and drove her to the edge of her sanity, ruining her life. Harley loves him, but the Joker just tolerates her at best. 

An independent woman

The Joker looks angry while Harley Quinn faces him in the passenger seat

The Joker and Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad | Warner Bros.

Unlike the film, in the Suicide Squad comics, Harley turns on the Joker, finally seeing his manipulative ways for what they are. She even starts up a romance with Deadshot and does her own thing within the DCEU.

When Robbie’s Harley decided to stay by the Joker’s side, many die-hard fans were left rolling their eyes. The updated version of Harley is supposed to be sexy, powerful, and independent. Hopefully, we’ll get to see that version of Ms. Quinn, along with Catwoman and Poison Ivy, in Gotham City Sirens


Joker and Harley Quinn talking across a table.

The Joker and Harley | Warner Bros.

It’s no secret that Robbie and Leto make Harley and the Joker look sultry and enticing, but the characters’ relationship is obviously nothing to aspire to. After all, in the comics, he’s often seen trying to kill her.  The Joker uses Harley when it’s convenient for him, and at first, she doesn’t know any better than to stay with him.

However, as she becomes stronger both mentally and physically, she starts to break out on her own. They certainly aren’t #relationshipgoals and it’s important for the DCEU to depict Harley defying him for her own best interest.

Even more Harley

Harley Quinn holding a mallet and smiling while sticking out her tongue.

Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad | Warner Bros.

We know who the Joker is. DC has presented iconic portrayals of the white-skinned, green-haired Clown of Gotham with depictions from everyone from Jack Nicholson to the late Heath Ledger. Now it’s time for Harley Quinn to take center stage.

Robbie killed it with her performance as Harley, despite the script that she had to work with. If the DCEU is going to get this right, we need to see a lot more of Dr. Quinzel before the Joker ruined her life and a lot more of Harley without him. 

The Joker’s softer side

Jared Leto sneers at another character.

The Joker | Warner Bros.

We certainly don’t want the DCEU to depict the Joker as an entirely sympathetic character, but he does have a softer side. In The Joker graphic novel, there is a point when another character spots the Joker on his knees, crying in Harley’s lap. Arleen Sorkin, who voiced Harley Quinn in Batman: The Animated Series, said that Harley is the only person ever to see the Joker cry.

Though watching Leto depict the crazed maniac is a ton of fun, getting glimpses of the human being behind the Clown Prince of Crime would certainly be worthwhile. 

Harley gets the upper hand

Harley Quinn sits against a white tile wall.

Harley Quinn | Warner Bros.

One of the greatest moments in Mad Love is when Harley Quinn beats the Joker at his own game. In Harley Quinn #25, the supervillain confronts her old bae in Arkham prison. After he taunts her, claiming they are meant to be together (she’s moved on at this point), he tries to kiss her forcibly. Ms. Quinn is having none of it, so she bites off his lip and proceeds to lay into him — even pulling a gun out on him in the end.

Though Harley doesn’t shoot, she seems to realize just how nuts her former lover is, and she finally walks away. Seeing Robbie’s Harley turn her back on the Joker would make the duo’s storyline ultra-compelling and contemporary.

Follow Aramide on Twitter @midnightrami.

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