The Humanization of Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad

Since the great excitement over the release of Suicide Squad, a wave of complaints against the movie have started to crop up, particularly concerning the main female role of Harley Quinn played by Margot Robbie. Though Harley Quinn appears in many different forms, her character originated from Batman: The Animated Series, then was explored in the graphic novel Mad Love. Quinn’s character seems to have exploded into popularity from there, though she only just recently received her own comic book series. The main similarity through all the renditions of Harley Quinn is her abusive relationship with the Joker, revealing clothing, and overall beauty.

Since Suicide Squad, many have pointed out the over-sexualization of Harley Quinn and why it is necessary for her character. One blogger points out, “When producers try to make up for the lack of content in a movie with a pointless over-the-top sexualised avatar, that’s when the problem arises. Harley is more than just a piece of ass” (Mukherjee, 2016). This issue of sexualizing female characters in comic books is reflected in many other characters and is a huge concern for the upcoming Wonder Woman movie. However, many complain that it is simply feminists jumping onto defense when they argue that Harley Quinn is over-sexualized. As Harley Quinn’s character has grown, her attractiveness and tight villain outfits have always been essentially the same. As she was first shown in a spandex unitard in the animated series, she seems to have always been in the habit of showing off her body, something some bloggers have been quick to point out. Another blogger argues that “She’s [Harley Quinn] a villain in her own right—murdering, maiming and destroying with the best of the Batman comics have to offer” (Zanotti, 2016). She points out Harley’s origins and how she was always seen. Despite what many are arguing about Quinn’s hyper-sexualization in Suicide Squad, she does keep true to her maniacal character. Her cycle of abuse with the Joker is a whole other battle, but her character has been known to be much more than a pet for the Joker’s own use.

Suicide Squad did in fact include Quinn’s whole backstory, revealing her to have once been Dr. Harleen Quinzel, an accomplished psychologist who had fallen in love with the Joker while testing him at Arkham Asylum. Personally, I think something must’ve been a little funny with her already to fall in love with a psychopath, but many simply ignore this and accuse Quinn of being a weak female character who is simply there for her looks. I think more toward Zanotti’s reasoning, as she does not shy away from being in a fight. Instead of collapsing in a heap and trying to kill herself, she keeps fighting against the people keeping her and actually kicks ass. Many are so focused on how much skin Quinn is showing that they aren’t focused on her truly tragic character: one torn by love that has been twisted by emotional and psychological abuse and by her own sense of morals. Suicide Squad makes a point to display Quinn’s loyalty to her group of super villains rather than making her sole focus all about her “Mr. J.” The male gaze may make an appearance throughout the movie, but Quinn’s complexity is not lost since we do see into her backstory. The main focus of the movie is to highlight the strength of each villain, and Suicide Squad does that while in fact keeping true to Harley Quinn’s character.

Mukherjee, S. (2016, August 3). “It’s Sad How Harley Quinn Has Been Sexualized To A Point Where The Brilliance Of Her Character Is Lost.” Scoop Whoop. Retrieved from

Zanotti, E. (2016, August 5). “Feminists Bemoan a ‘Sexualized’ Harley Quinn,but They Don’t Understand Her Character.” Heat Street. Dow Jones & Company Inc. Retrieved from

Picture credit: DC Comics

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