He is probably the most iconic villain of DC Universe; he is called with many aliases: Clown Prince of Crimes, The Harlequin of Hate,…. But we simply call him: The Joker. This villain is a mortal enemy of Batman, and also an extremely dangerous psychopath who just wants to see this world burns. For such a maniac villain, those who don’t know about DC Universe may think that there is no way, and no one will fall in love with this guy. Yet on the contrary, he does have a lover (though he doesn’t seem to have this love feeling in the first place): Harley Quinn. The relationship, or rather, love between Harley Quinn and Joker is among the most bizarre and creepy relationships in DC Universe. Such a crazy love always pique our interest (despite its creepiness), and so, why not check them out?
Harley Quinn is often known as The Joker‘s best sidekick, but not all of us know about her origin. Her first appearance was in Batman the Animated Series as Joker’s sidekick who wears red and black suit resembling of a clown. She often seen staying close with Joker and fully committed to his cause even though she was fully aware of Joker’s sick nature.
At first, Harley‘s story wasn’t really clear until The Batman Adventures Mad Love which tells about her backstory. In this story, Harley Quinn was reimagined as a young psychiatrist named Harleen Frances Quinzel, who worked in Arkham Asylum. When Joker was captured, she took great interest in him; she spent most of her time trying to understand Joker. While Joker, fully aware of what’s happening, tricked Harleen in believing his tragic story. For some “unknown” reasons, Harleen gradually feel in love with Joker, eventually helped Joker escape from Arkham Asylum. Times later, Harleen was seen but not as a psychiatrist, but as Joker’s follower under the name Harley Quinn (the name taken from the word “harlequin”).
From time to time, we can see that Harley Quinn has a great passion with Joker. She volunteered to become his follower, she readies to do everything for Joker, she stays close with Joker despite many evil things Joker has done to her.
While many other people feel the terror when they hear the name “Joker”, Harley Quinn is the only one so far who dares to call Joker with “loving nicknames”, like “Pudding” or “Mister J”. However, everything comes with a price. While Harley stays close with Joker and fully devotes herself for his causes, Joker mostly finds Harley as a pawn for his plans. He often manipulates Harley and tells Harley what she is supposed to be (like in Injustice story). He also commits many horrible things to her, for example:
Harley was once pushed into the chemical pool
When the New 52 came out and rebooted the Universe, the story of Harley Quinn and Joker also changed a little bit. In this side of the story, Harley, or Harleen, was still a psychiatrist, she still loved Joker. However, Joker believed that she had to prove her love to him. Thus leading to a situation in which he pushed her into the chemical pool which he once fell in. This changed Harleen’s appearance to somewhat similar to Joker‘s pale skin.
Harley was punished for being “too independent”
Continue the story of New 52, there was a time when Joker disappeared without Harley Quinn’s knowing. Later on she spent time with the Suicide Squad and for the first time, she felt that there was something else for her to do. Unfortunate for her, this “happy time” didn’t last long.
When Joker came back, he thought of new plan to take down Batman, but this plan required manpower. He brought Harley back; however, he didn’t like how she lived independently from him. And so, he gave her a “lesson”. Joker inhumanly tortured Harley: cutting, hanging her, leaving her to death. He even used her own hyenas on her, but seemed she still stayed “vigilant”. Finally, he showed Harley his entire dungeon filled with other dead “Harley”.
Harley almost got her face peeled
In an issue of New 52, Joker had his face skinned off and stayed “dead” for a while. Eventually he came back with a plan of severing Batman’s family bond. Of course he also pulled Harley along, but this time he felt that Harley’s appearance wasn’t match with his. Therefore, he demanded to skin off Harley’s face. She was hesitant at first, but soon she accepted to follow Joker’s demand. Lucky for her this time, Joker decided not to skin off her face since he satisfied with her devotion.
Harley was almost sent to the space alone
Some people may wonder: “Does Joker truly love Harley?” And the answer is… yes? Maybe? But it is definitely not in “happy ending” way. Joker once admitted that he actually felt the sensation of love throughout the time working with Harley. However, he despised this feeling and he wished to get rid of it. And his method of doing it was to send her to somewhere far away… to space.
Joker told Harley to meet in a rocket ride, but Joker wasn’t there. She opened a video in the rocket and saw Joker expressing his feeling. Then he activated the rocket, sending Harley to space once and for all. That said, his plan was failed as the rocket fell into Robinson Park where Harley met Poison Ivy.
Harley got a gift from Joker: Becoming a Constellation
Being with the lover and watching constellations on the sky can be a romantic thing to do. But transforming the lover to a constellation isn’t exactly good or romantic. However, Joker seems to prefer that idea and he did it to Harley.
In Emperor Joker story, Mister Mxyzptlk thought it would be interesting to share 1% of his power to Joker and saw what Joker could do with it. But turned out, Mister Mxyzptlk was tricked and “accidentally” shared 99% of his power instead of 1%. And so… what could be more terrifying than Joker having near-omnipotence power? In this story, Joker easily twisted the world into his liking. He killed Batman just to resurrecting him, then killing him again. Of course being able to do everything soon bored him, and at the end, he granted Harley a “gift”: The Emperor Joker killed Harley and changed her to a constellation.
So now we know how Joker treats Harley and Harley still loves him despite all that horrible acts. We then come to a pretty difficult question: why Harley still commits her love with Joker? What is the reason behind the love between her and Joker?
Why Harley commits her love with Joker despite Joker’s terrible acts?
Yes, it is true that Harley has a deep love for Joker. However, the Injustice comic and game showed another potential story for Harley. In an alternative reality, Joker was killed by Superman and gradually Harley escaped from Joker’s clutch. She gradually realized how Joker truly felt and treated her. Interesting enough, she started to devote herself to Batman’s cause.
When Batman summoned Justice League from another Universe, Joker of that Universe also came along. And this time, she succeeded in cutting her relationship with Joker. In the last Injustice issues, Harley beaten Joker mercilessly until Batman from alternate Universe brought him back. This officially cut Harley Quinn and Joker relationship, opening a new beginning for her with the new Justice League.
The reason behind the love between Harley Quinn and Joker
The relationship/love between Harley Quinn and Joker seems not to be explained clearly in comic and games. All we know so far is that Harley Quinn falls in love with a psychopath, despite knowing his horrible deeds.
In Injustice storyline, Harley asked Doctor Fate of how she could escape Joker’s grasp. Doctor Fate showed her that both her and Joker were chained in a strong bond which couldn’t be severed. No matter what Universes, no matter what timelines, they will always be ended up together. That said, later issues showed that Harley could escape from this unending cycle. She totally got rid of Joker’s influence, even beaten the alternative-reality Joker until Batman “saved” him.
To some extent, that was a happy ending for Harley Quinn indeed. But is there any other way to explain Harley Quinn and Joker relationship?
Harley Quinn and Joker relationship and the real-life version
In common sense, no one thinks that he/she will stay with a man/woman who is terribly abusive. But in reality, this kind of relationship actually happens many times.
And in case of Harley Quinn and Joker, their love can be considered as an abused and obsessed relationship, in which Joker is the abusive while Harley is the obsessed one. In real life, this kind of relationship isn’t exactly rare. There are cases in which a husband/boyfriend abuses his lover. Still, his lover commits, or rather, accepts to stay with him although she is fully aware of what her husband/boyfriend did.
Abusive relationship in real life
In the book Psychological Abuse in Violent Domestic Relations (K. Daniel O’Leary and Roland D. Maiuro, 2001), it is implied that there are two types of abusive relationship: physical abuse psychological abuse. Physical abuse includes physical harms, damages on a person body, while psychological abuse includes verbal attacks/harsh criticism or dominating, isolating the partner. Both of these forms of abuse have been used by Joker upon Harley as we can see many times: he physically cutting, beating her; he literally isolates her by sending her to the space; he manipulates her and convinces that her life is nothing without him; and more…
Some people may ask: “If so then why doesn’t she run away from him?”. True, that can work out, but the problem is these kinds of abuse can literally change the mindset of the abused partner. In many relationships like this, the abused partner can fall into an “acceptance” state in which: that person will keep staying with their abusive partner. The abused one believes that her life will be meaningless as she can’t do anything without her partner. She adores and keeps believing in the happy memories she once shared with the partner. Thus she believe that her partner still love her and she will keep hoping that one day her partner will change to good side. Therefore, she still stays with her abusive lover, without knowing when or how her partner will change. This is exactly Harley‘s case, typically when we see Joker punished her for being “too independence“.
* Note: Although the example of abused partner referred as “her”, this abused person can also be man, not just woman.
Back to Harley Quinn and Joker
*WARNING: THIS IS PURELY SUBJECTIVE SPECULATION*
So based on what we have above, it is highly that Harley Quinn is stuck in the same situation mentioned earlier. First of all, we know that Harley, or Harleen when she was still a psychiatrist, took great interest in Joker. She listened to Joker’s sad story and became sympathetic to him. This was possibly the memory Harleen adored when she was with Joker. It was unclear whether Harleen was abused during this point or not (though it was unlikely so), but it is highly that she cherished these times when they share their personal stories with each other.
Later on when she became Harley Quinn, she has fully committed herself to Joker’s causes. But these have been the time Joker abused Harley terribly. If what we discuss above is also viable in this relationship, then high chance that she was already succumbed to Joker at this point. She was both physically abused, and psychologically abused as the Joker manipulated her to think that she couldn’t live without him.
For those who follow Injustice 2 storyline, we can see that Harley was haunted by Joker. When she was affected by Fear Toxin, she imagined Joker appeared and manipulated her to kill Batman. But fortunately for Harley, she managed to escape from that nightmare. That said, this scene also implied that Joker’s influence used to run deep inside her mind. In the end, it took her great courage and will to finally defy Joker (though this happened in her mind).
Harley Quinn and Joker relationship is always something interesting to look at. And if we put it in real-life situation, it actually makes sense and creates further depth for these fictional characters. There are many people took interest in this relationship, especially after the Suicide Squad movie. Does it happen since many people felt the same way? Is it close to our real life that we felt sympathetic for this relationship?
In any cases, that’s just our subjective opinion. What do you think about Harley Quinn and Joker relationship? Feel free to share with us and for now, thank you and stay tune for more news in the future!
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