Harley Quinn: Addressing the Critics of "Crazy Sexy Cool"

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Harley Quinn: Addressing the Critics of "Crazy Sexy Cool"

Harley Quinn is a lot of different things to a lot of different cosplayers. But the thing that tends to come up a lot with critics is the sexy depiction of a character in an abusive relationship.

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Hmm.

Personally, Harley terrifies me. She's everything I hate about the expectations that go with being female - that "stand by your man and be cute and perky" riff never did sit well with me. Yes, I'm aware that I just described much of her appeal to some guys. I'm not interested in appealing to those guys. I don't assume that Harley cosplayers are solely motivated by appealing to those guys either.

I kind of think that this is a shallow interpretation of her character. Now, I'm no expert on these matters, but I've always thought that she was simply a tragic figure and that her entire motif with the painted on clown smile and chirpy insanity was sort of riffing on that - you know, putting on a happy face to mask what is essentially severe emotional trauma.

This is actually a bit of a reoccurring theme in Bat-Man comics in general and not just with Harley. I mean, the Bat himself actually does the same thing for almost exactly the same reason. He puts on the cowl in order to escape the feelings of helplessness and rage that he had as a child.

In this light, I think it's worth reminding people that co-dependant relationships aren't actually just one way. The person who is in the position of someone like Harley Quinn is getting an emotional need met by acting out this way. Now, it's not a healthy way to go about doing this, but this is in it's essence why the character does this stuff. Instead of thinking of her as a brainless bimbo and slave to the Joker, it's actually more appropriate to imagine her more like someone who would be a heroin addict and unable to break their addiction regardless of how low it brings them.

Honestly, I think this one panel from Injustice, as short as it is, really drives this point home about the character.

image

Obviously people are going to always have their own interpretations of characters, but I think when people merely dismiss her as a chirpy bimbo, they're kind of not getting the point.

Anyway, as far as Cosplay goes, I think the vast majority of people are merely interested in the aesthetics of whatever cosplay they choose to do (and the craft as well that goes into the costuming). I think Harley is probably very popular because she's quite fluid in how she can be portrayed - from "cute" to down right "sexy" depending on how comfortable you feel about it, and of course, she's "wacky" a lot of the time, so that's probably appealing to people as well (Who doesn't like to cut loose?)

I guess my feelings are two fold: I think the critics are probably getting her character wrong on a lot of levels and I think their criticism is a bit misplaced since I doubt that the "messaging" they think is implicit with the character is even being "received" by people. Most people probably don't even have the personal context to even understand it, let alone absorb it.

Hehe... a though occurred to me. Maybe if you stop being a feminists you may also stop overanalyzing, being judgmental and always on. Just saying.

The suicide squad promos have been making me think about why I like Harley so much.

I think there are many different ways of interpreting her. You only seem to see her in terms of her relationship with the Joker (and that is completely fair, it's a major part of her character arc and her origin). When I think of Harley it tends to be independent of the Joker and more about the potential she has as a character on her own.

There is a tendency to simplify her as a victim or a complete bimbo and I don't think that's fair. She has been shown to be very clever and has a knack of knowing exactly how to push peoples buttons and get them to do what she wants. She plays the bimbo and on her sex appeal only so far as it allows her to get away with so much.

I don't know that I've seen an interpretation that actually matches to potential I think she has (Gotham city sirens came pretty close) and it's not going to happen in the Suicide Squad; maybe I'll be surprised but a summer blockbuster isn't exactly the place ideal place for nuanced character interpretation.

I've always felt bad for Harley, ever since I saw her first pop up in the cartoon. I remember being really confused about her--why in the world would anyone want to stay with the Joker?--but as the show went on, and she branched out into other stories, I got it.

Even in Arkham Knight, I still feel bad for her. Poor girl.

And I can't claim that I'm above cosplaying damaged women -- My "serious issues with men" cosplay is Harley's on-again, off-again BFF/girlfriend, Poison Ivy. Harley and Ivy's relationship appeals to different cosplayers on different levels: if you saw them as being more than friends, their relationship validated lesbians before it was really trendy. Even if your mental versions of Harley and Ivy are "just friends", many women have a close friend who is in a terrible relationship, but you can't help her until she's ready to help herself, and that hits home with a lot of cosplayers. Harley and Ivy's dynamic speaks to some pretty deep, uncomfortable things about "girl power" through pinup cuddle poses.

I wish I could find the reference comic, but one of the most interesting (and most personally uncomfortable) comics I've seen is one of the Ivy and Harley issues where the entire piece is just Ivy trying to get through to Harley about her toxic relationship with Joker and men in general, and what it's doing to her. They did a great job of talking about the issue without wrapping everything up in a nice bow or painting Harley as an idiot or lunatic (more so than usual). Jake Martinez' panel gets the gist down.

Ishigami:
Hehe... a though occurred to me. Maybe if you stop being a feminists you may also stop overanalyzing, being judgmental and always on. Just saying.

Oh, look, someone who hasn't read any of Liana's work on Metaleater or anywhere else, but saw the word "feminist" and couldn't wait to post (with very poor grammar) about how that's the root of all evil. Isn't there a GID thread you need to rant in?

I feel like the fact that Harley is one of those "eye of the beholder" characters, is what makes her so appealing. She represents different things to different people, not all of them good, like a song or poem with vague lyrics or prose, that reminds different people of different things.

Thunderous Cacophony:

Ishigami:
Hehe... a though occurred to me. Maybe if you stop being a feminists you may also stop overanalyzing, being judgmental and always on. Just saying.

Oh, look, someone who hasn't read any of Liana's work on Metaleater or anywhere else, but saw the word "feminist" and couldn't wait to post (with very poor grammar) about how that's the root of all evil. Isn't there a GID thread you need to rant in?

But...feminists are so judgmental. As opposed to people complaining about anyone that identifies as feminist.

thaluikhain:

Thunderous Cacophony:

Ishigami:
Hehe... a though occurred to me. Maybe if you stop being a feminists you may also stop overanalyzing, being judgmental and always on. Just saying.

Oh, look, someone who hasn't read any of Liana's work on Metaleater or anywhere else, but saw the word "feminist" and couldn't wait to post (with very poor grammar) about how that's the root of all evil. Isn't there a GID thread you need to rant in?

But...feminists are so judgmental. As opposed to people complaining about anyone that identifies as feminist.

Six of one half a dozen of the other.

At some point, even people who support feminism need to realize that making "male", "white" and "young" out to all be suspect identities is essentially creating your own reactionary opposition. I know from reading Liana's work that she understands this and I bet she just shakes her head at it.

I think the biggest problem with Harley Quinn is that she's so much dependent on the writer - like, in regards to the comics there's storylines where she's a serious character with serious moments, like the panel above that Jake Martinez posted. There's been storylines where she's rebelled against the Joker, dumped the Joker, murdered the Joker, worked through her mental health while still remaining a villain, become a good guy... and at the same time, there's stories where she's just extra dressing for the Joker, the crazy-kooky sexy side-kick that fawns over the Joker and looks nice in skimpy clothes.

This variance of how she's handled by the different writers, I feel, does contribute to how people react to her. I first encountered Harley in the Animated Show of her origin, but didn't follow her rigorously after the show ended. Meanwhile a friend of mine started with the comics versions of her, and he has a much more... well, I'll say 'negative' opinion on her as a result, seeing her as a more shallow character tied too heavily to the Joker. A second friend (to really double down on anecdote) who watched bits of the show and only read the better-handled parts of her in the comics is much more positive - aware of her connection to the Joker, but sees her as a positive figure and one she can relate to having survived an abuse relationship herself.

So... yeah. I had a point I was getting to with this, but I literally just got distracted looking at my wall and completely forgot it. I think I was going for a 'Peoples perceptions of such a complicated character can vary based on when/where they saw them over the years, and how those fit with their own feelings/lives' point. I honestly lost it entirely. Whoops.

I will say that my second friend is planning on Cosplaying Harley later in the year. Meanwhile, my first friend has cosplayed the Joker... you know, I haven't enough degrees in Psychology to start analyzing that too closely.

The best Harley will always be the animated show version. Harley needs to be clownesque first and sexy last. Her outfit in the show works to emphasize her as someone who's completely covered up and resembling a toy. Harley in her outfit should never show any skin, it's supposed to work dehumanizing.

Harley's overtly sexy outfits in recent times reminds of how Pyramid Head got sexied up to being shirtless, having abs, and wearing a skirt.

Shanicus:
I think the biggest problem with Harley Quinn is that she's so much dependent on the writer - like, in regards to the comics there's storylines where she's a serious character with serious moments, like the panel above that Jake Martinez posted.

That's the problem with superhero comics in general, really.

Every person who cosplays Harley has a slightly different answer to the first question, and Manda Cowled gave a great one in the video that I won't duplicate here. Regarding the second question, I won't claim that no woman ever dressed up as Harley Quinn just to please her boyfriend, but a lot of women are also choosing that costume for themselves. I think the cosplay connection to Harley Quinn comes from an affirmational place, not an aspirational one. It's not about wanting to be in a bad relationship with a guy like the Joker. It's about recognizing that many of us have been in a bad codependency, had the opportunity to get out, and went back. Harley is the patron saint of the bad choices many smart women make, and by embracing her, cosplayers can embrace their own lousy decisions from a positive place.

Reading through this was interesting to me, as it has the same sort of deep interpretation/critical theory look at something, much like we see with games, movies, books, and so on, and blazes right past what's probably actually the most simple and likely reason.

What if they cosplay as Harely because they like her design, or they think she's a funny character?

I don't imagine people cosplaying Batman do it largely because they come from an affirmational place, and recognizing they'd been in a situation where their parents were murdered and want to get revenge on criminals. They just think batman looks cool, and think his character is neat. Not to say no one identifies with Batman or Harley, but I'd hazard that isn't the majority reasoning.

She's everything I hate about the expectations that go with being female - that "stand by your man and be cute and perky" riff never did sit well with me. Yes, I'm aware that I just described much of her appeal to some guys. I'm not interested in appealing to those guys. I don't assume that Harley cosplayers are solely motivated by appealing to those guys either.

And this. "everything I hate". Harley is never presented(as far as I know) as a paradigm for women, so this falls back into the thing that I've seen pointed out a few times recently. A male character can be whatever kind of loser the writer wants, but a female character, or a minority, is suddenly a representation of all women or minorities.

If Harley was a real person, no one would want to be like her. Her behavior is largely reprehensible, she merrily teams up with a blatant psychotic, she willingly subjects herself to abuse and so on. I don't think the writers of any of Harley's iterations wrote it as a "man, all women should be like this", but sure enough, for some critical theory interpretations, Harley is suddenly a representation of female characters in total. Which is especially weird when Harley has been written in several dozen different ways by different people.

Ishigami:
Hehe... a though occurred to me. Maybe if you stop being a feminists you may also stop overanalyzing, being judgmental and always on. Just saying.

Or maybe the "antifeminist" crowd could grow up, quit objectifying women, and accept that women are unique and different from men as well as deserve to be respected for their own ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Women have so much more that they can give society if we stop trying to force them into being "the girl on the guy's arm cheering him on" or "the princess that needs saving" and let them be who they want to be.

Then again, I consider myself a feminist...and I'm a guy.

Liana,

Fascinating article. Thank you for sharing.

Jake Martinez:

Honestly, I think this one panel from Injustice, as short as it is, really drives this point home about the character.

If you go by single panels/pages/comics, you can justify almost anything. Superman kills, Batman uses guns, Spider-Man doesn't care about great power or great responsibility.

And sicne we're already talking comics...

At some point, even people who support feminism need to realize that making "male", "white" and "young" out to all be suspect identities is essentially creating your own reactionary opposition.

Holy non-sequitur, Batman!

And this has what to do with feminism again...

Interesting article.

Personally, I think that Quinn's a character that works best when not sitting alongside the Joker. Yeah, the old cartoon was great (and is probably one of the starker depictions of abusive relationships to ever be put in a children's show) but I find that I enjoy Quinn more when she's out of the Joker's shadow - either working with Poison Ivy or other groups. I really liked what was done to the character in the Injustice universe - showing that without the Joker around, she can actually grow to be a positive member of society. Whenever the Joker's around, Quinn just winds up walking in his shadow - there are times when it's done well, but mostly it just makes Harley feel like an afterthought, which is a waste when the character can be so much more.

I look forward to seeing what the Suicide Squad movie does with the character.

I'm sorry, I'm going to be that guy.

Supervillains are not role models.

I mean, yeah, they are role models to this generation. And no, I am not saying the fact that she's a supervillain makes her abuse to becoming Harley Quinn any better. But she's a damaged person. Even more tragic given the fact that she was an accomplished Doctor (how accomplished is determined to the writer of that day) before Joker got his hands on her.

But yeah, one should have trouble connecting to Harley. Or any villain, really. They hurt people for profit or just for kicks. They would steam roll over all of you in a second, and would especially do so because you are all the sheep to them. I honestly never will understand why people find villains so appealing. They are easy. They are us. It's basically just seeing us in a costume. I live in the Tri state Area of New York... it's not that hard to see people in costumes...

But to the reason why Harley stays... simply put, he's good at what he does. And more important, in the beginning she represented us.

The Joker is a monster. A monster who delights in his mechanisms. He is abhorrent. He is deadly. And he cares for nothing but his own pleasure. And we, like Harley, eat it up. Joker has got into all of our minds and shown the worst aspects of humanity... and we eat it up. The more he kills people who would actually be us, the more we eat it up. Because it isn't us. We get to go along for the ride. We get to live vicariously. And we feel it will never happen to us. Since we get and we praise the Joker, he would spare us.

But that's where our connection with Harley stops. We did not get the mental conditioning like she did. The reason why Dr. Quinzel never leaves the Joker is that he killed Quinzel the second he started to work in on her. Harley Quinn with snippets of Quinzel's memories is really all that is left.

To Harley Quinn, the Joker is Mother, Father, and God. The absolute Creator. It's like any abusive relationship with a parent. There is a small fraction of us who can separate our creator from the monsters they might be. For the rest of us, no matter how much they hurt us, it hurts us more because we just want our creators to love us. To be like how creators should be. So we hope if we're good, we hope if we make them proud... the abuse will stop and the love will flow.

And Joker does give moments of that. I was too young to understand, but when Poison Ivy asked why did Harley stay with him, I remember Harley acknowledging how hard Joker can be, but really believing that he loves her. Joker is literally all that Harley knows to be true.

Lastly, Dr. Quinzel is a message. She is a triumph. Not only is rehabilitation useless on the Joker, but his insanity is infectious as it is dangerous. Harley Quinn is a walking reminder of his taint.

I dunno. I just can't see the appeal in personifying someone who is mentally insane like that. Harley, Joker, or any of them. Given my personal experiences with a brother who is schizophrenic, and has tried to murder both my parents at one point, and has threatened my life as well as beating up my grandmother while she was alive, and expecting all of us to just let him do whatever he wants, I just can't find any appeal in portraying that.

Whenever I see someone pretending to be someone like that, all I can think is "ok so, if you were really pretending to be that person, you would be smelly, unkempt, and frantic because you haven't bathed in 3 weeks, because your mania won't let you think about things like hygiene. You would be muttering to yourself constantly, and violently lashing out at people around you to give you stuff because you want it." Oh, you're not doing that, and just dressing up as them because you think they look hot/sexy/cool? Yeah, well then you really aren't actually representing the character, you're just in their clothes.

I mean, yeah ok, whatever floats your boat I guess, I'm not going to tell you you can't do it, but I'm sure not going to be impressed by it.

scotth266:
Interesting article.

Personally, I think that Quinn's a character that works best when not sitting alongside the Joker. Yeah, the old cartoon was great (and is probably one of the starker depictions of abusive relationships to ever be put in a children's show) but I find that I enjoy Quinn more when she's out of the Joker's shadow - either working with Poison Ivy or other groups. I really liked what was done to the character in the Injustice universe - showing that without the Joker around, she can actually grow to be a positive member of society. Whenever the Joker's around, Quinn just winds up walking in his shadow - there are times when it's done well, but mostly it just makes Harley feel like an afterthought, which is a waste when the character can be so much more.

I look forward to seeing what the Suicide Squad movie does with the character.

I can't even understand what she sees in him any more. The Joker has gotten so completely devoid of any shred of humanity lately that I can't even conceive of anyone being attracted to him.

Harley needs to become her own character, completely separated from the Joker in every way.

Anyone remember DC's "Tangent" universe? Its "Joker" was a female, anti-establishment, prankster superhero. That's kinda the place I wish they'd take Harley. Someplace more fun and innocent.

I remember the episode on the animated series where Harley was declared sane and she was let out of the Arkham Asylum. Unfortunately she failed miserably in re-adapting to the Gotham City "normal" society when an honest mistake ended up in an unintended kidnapping, a huge police chase and Batman returning her back to the Asylum. Even her victim felt sorry for her.

Hey Zachary,

Why did you quote me out of context in order to make it look like I was instigating a claim instead of responding to someone else?

You also left out the point which was pertinent to the discussion - Liana herself, whom views I believe I accurately portrayed based on her written work and videos.

Please don't do this again in the future, it's really tantamount to lying about someone and it's really low.

Thanks

Casual Shinji:
The best Harley will always be the animated show version. Harley needs to be clownesque first and sexy last. Her outfit in the show works to emphasize her as someone who's completely covered up and resembling a toy. Harley in her outfit should never show any skin, it's supposed to work dehumanizing.

Harley's overtly sexy outfits in recent times reminds of how Pyramid Head got sexied up to being shirtless, having abs, and wearing a skirt.

I too prefer the original version.

I need to sit down and watch the original cartoon again but as I recall the actual arc of the character is that she was a young, brilliant, but wallflowerish, psychologist who freed the joker and created a new persona for herself that allowed her to be a wild crazy pixie girl the way she felt she couldnt be as herself. As the arc of the show went on the joker crapped on her and backstabbed her to the point that she left and eventually turned on him completely. Maybe even beating his ass once or twice I dont remember. She was a goofy immature kid even under poison ivys protection. She was never really "crazy". She knew the score but for a lot of it the benefits of being the jokers sidekick outwayed...being the jokers sidekick.

DC comics did like they do with everything good someone comes with under their domain(Fucking kingdom come) took the character and made her into this trite sex puppet whos never got out from under the joker and whos still this oversexed henchmen. I hate what DC did with her and I think if a cosplayer cosplays the new shitty comic version of her and then catches the feels over it, good. DC fucked her up and youre just glorifying it.

Aggieknight:

Ishigami:
Hehe... a though occurred to me. Maybe if you stop being a feminists you may also stop overanalyzing, being judgmental and always on. Just saying.

Or maybe the "antifeminist" crowd could grow up, quit objectifying women, and accept that women are unique and different from men as well as deserve to be respected for their own ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Women have so much more that they can give society if we stop trying to force them into being "the girl on the guy's arm cheering him on" or "the princess that needs saving" and let them be who they want to be.

Then again, I consider myself a feminist...and I'm a guy.

Liana,

Fascinating article. Thank you for sharing.

As a feminist as well I have to ask, do you stand against objectification merely on principal? Would you claim there is something inherently immoral or unethical about objectification? Is only the objectification of female characters a problem or is all objectification a problem? If objectification is inherently immoral or unethical, why? Do you equate the objectification of female characters with objectification of women? If so, why?

McMarbles:
I can't even understand what she sees in him any more. The Joker has gotten so completely devoid of any shred of humanity lately that I can't even conceive of anyone being attracted to him.

She's not exactly mentally healthy y'know. Stockholm Syndrome, codependency, psychological conditioning by the Joker, that sort of thing.

The problem with the stereotype is that it's not a stereotype. Attractive women are actual targets for sex abusers, since getting one to accept the abuse is more gratifying to the ego of the abuser than getting an unattractive woman to accept it. And the kind of deep dependency necessary to force someone to live with that kind of horrible treatment opens the door for a number of psychological problems.

So it's the abuse that causes the crazy, not the other way around.

Liana Kerzner:
Harley Quinn is a lot of different things to a lot of different cosplayers. But the thing that tends to come up a lot with critics is the sexy depiction of a character in an abusive relationship.

Lord, ain't that a can of worms, and one I'm disinclined to try to have a conversation about in this environment. Let me limit my response to simply saying, Ms. Kerzner, your aversion to dressing as Harley Quinn makes perfect sense to me, and I'm glad you articulated it to give people something to think about.

Or, you know, maybe people cosplay as Harley because they think she looks cool, and is a cool character, and there isn't some deeper, hidden meaning about abusive relationships.

Houseman:
Or, you know, maybe people cosplay as Harley because they think she looks cool, and is a cool character, and there isn't some deeper, hidden meaning about abusive relationships.

The first sentence of the article's second paragraph acknowledges this, so I am not sure whom this is intended in response to.

JimB:

Houseman:
Or, you know, maybe people cosplay as Harley because they think she looks cool, and is a cool character, and there isn't some deeper, hidden meaning about abusive relationships.

The first sentence of the article's second paragraph acknowledges this, so I am not sure whom this is intended in response to.

I don't see where it says that.

Houseman:

JimB:

Houseman:
Or, you know, maybe people cosplay as Harley because they think she looks cool, and is a cool character, and there isn't some deeper, hidden meaning about abusive relationships.

The first sentence of the article's second paragraph acknowledges this, so I am not sure whom this is intended in response to.

I don't see where it says that.

I...really don't know how to be any more clear about where it is. Do you need me to quote it?

the first sentence of the article's second paragraph:
Every person who cosplays Harley has a slightly different answer to the first question, and Manda Cowled gave a great one in the video that I won't duplicate here.

The "first question" she refers to is this one, found two sentences earlier:

the penultimate sentence of the article's first paragraph:
How could any woman, they ask, want to embody a victim of domestic abuse?

So...yeah. It's right there. She knows people all have their own answers, and that some of them are, "I don't care about that aspect."

JimB:

So...yeah. It's right there. She knows people all have their own answers, and that some of them are, "I don't care about that aspect."

"Everybody has different answers" is not equal to "people cosplay as her because she's cool", from my interpretation.

The author appears to be saying that everybody has different reasons for why they want to "embody a victim of domestic abuse", and then goes on to write a huge article about those reasons, never once saying "Or, you know, none of that could be true, and people just like to look cool".

She's flat out saying what it is and what it isn't about, here:

I think the cosplay connection to Harley Quinn comes from an affirmational place, not an aspirational one. It's not about wanting to be in a bad relationship with a guy like the Joker. It's about recognizing that many of us have been in a bad codependency, had the opportunity to get out, and went back. Harley is the patron saint of the bad choices many smart women make, and by embracing her, cosplayers can embrace their own lousy decisions from a positive place.

Jake Martinez:

Obviously people are going to always have their own interpretations of characters, but I think when people merely dismiss her as a chirpy bimbo, they're kind of not getting the point.

I largely agree, and I think she's a fascinating character, especially in her original incarnation.

However, the problem is that sometimes she is portrayed as a chirpy bimbo. That's the problem with a shared universe, sometimes the person who misses the point is the writer. I don't think the Mortal Kombat guys were thinking that much about it when they included her in the game, for instance. In those situations I think it can be argued that her portrayal can potentially be pretty negative.

Houseman:
"Everybody has different answers" is not equal to "people cosplay as her because she's cool," from my interpretation.

So you think Ms. Kerzner is simultaneously saying that no two people have the same reason and that no people at all have the reason "because she's cool?" Okay. I disagree with that reading about as much as I can, but if you think there's a silent population out there being unfairly represented in their decision to cosplay Harley Quinn, then by all means, do continue to stick up for them.

I love Harley when she's done well. For example, her interactions with Black Canary and Green Arrow in the injustice comics. But I just don't under stand the hot topicish costume changes. I think the way she looked in Assult on Arkham wasn't too bad.
http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/11112/111128810/3803211-tumblr_n50jkvywin1rl14rno5_1280.png
But the original is my favorite. I guess I just don't get why they feel the need to make her the stereotypical scantly clad villain. It's more interesting,and quite refreshing, to see her fully covered while still being overtly sexual.

I'm not going to touch the issue of whether playing HQ is somehow "wrong"; it seems judgmental to me in a way that's unhealthy.

But she's an interesting character, from what I've read and seen. Somehow, a woman who was smart enough to earn an advanced degree in psychology, brave enough to take that degree to a place like Arkham, and confident enough to think that her training would apply to someone like the Joker- went terribly, terribly wrong. Harleen Quinzel took on a persona that made a great display of not being smart, or brave, or confident.

And the real horror is that one gets the impression that she chose to do so- continues to choose to do so.

Maybe part of the fascination of a character like Harley is that she just let everything go. That her exposure to Joker brought out the idea that she didn't have to be caring and professional and careful, that she could be violent and wild and frivolous instead, and get away with it. And perhaps part of her attachment to the Joker is a belief that she couldn't be like that by herself.

It's okay to want to let out your "wild side"; people have been doing that with costumes for a hell of a long time before anyone ever uttered the word "cosplay". But acting as though someone picking this particular means to do so requires intense scrutiny and criticism, even condemnation, seems like an unfortunate and almost puritanical kind of restraint.

You know it's funny, because most people who like the character, including girls, tend to focus on the zany, unpredictable, and psychotically violent side of the character. Girls in particular seem to like her because they sort of wish they could be that way sometimes, they aren't focusing on the "bad relationships" aspect of the character. Harley is one of the first female comic characters to do that schtick, and has her own style.

I'll also point out that the strip shown above aside, Harley has changed a lot in the comics and is far more independent. She can be quite upbeat and amusing as a bad guy, especially when doing her own thing.

But yes it is true, having mental illness or brain damage (take this coming from someone with the latter) tends to be more pathetic than it is exciting or dangerous. That said I don't have any real problems with the way mental illness is portrayed in comic books and such, they aren't intended to be treatises on mental health. The only real problem I have with it is that while I like a lot of insane characters, insanity seems to be a justification for a lot of bad writers to not have to really think through the motives for their characters.

That said, tastes do vary.

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