Sunday, March 4, 2012

Harley Quinn: Comic Relief in Batman

I remember watching Harley Quinn in the animated Batman series on television. I’ve always thought she was an interesting character and she definitely stands out as one of the most remembered female characters in Batman. She is free spirited and humorous. She is portrayed as a comic relief; however, her portrayal as a typical blonde, thus being a laughing stock, parallels the way how female characters are viewed as unintelligent and even troublesome.
The name “Harley Quinn” itself is reflects the nature of her character. Her name is a variation of “harlequin”, which is a comic servant or a court jester who has origins in Italian, French, or Spanish plays. A harlequin also wears a mask and a dual color clown suit, usually red and black. In the Batman: Animated Series, she fits the perfect description of a harlequin and is also presented to be a typical blonde. She is dressed in a red and black clown suit and hat. When she is not wearing the hat, Harley Quinn is always sporting pig-tails. For instance, in one scene, she is riding in the Bat-mobile with Batman and wants to listen to the radio. She presses a button, but instead of the radio, the button activated a parachute, causing the Bat-mobile to swerve. Through her rash impulses and humorous antics, Harley Quinn is in fact molded to a stereotypical blonde.

 Another aspect of Harley’s characterization is her infatuation for the Joker. Before becoming Harley Quinn, Dr. Harleen Quinzel was a psychologist, fascinated by extreme personalities such as that of the Joker’s. With the Joker as her patient, she learned that the Joker just longed to be accepted and loved. She pitied him and eventually fell in love with the Joker. Harley Quinn also often helped the Joker escaped from the asylum. Her infatuation with the Joker shows the underlying female longing for the dangers of love.

Researching more on Harley Quinn, I also encountered a different version of Harley Quinn in the video game, Batman: Arkham City, in which she is wearing a red corset over a low cut shirt, a mini skirt and thigh high boots. This costume is definitely a shift from what she wore in the animated series and in the comics. This is another instance in which the male gaze is applied. Most of consumers who play this video game are males and thus, the costumes of female characters such as Harley Quinn are constructed to appeal to males, even though the costume is drastically different from Harley Quinn’s traditional jester costume.

 So my question to you: What are your thoughts on Harley Quinn’s portrayal in the animated series and in the video game? Here are some links:

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