The Joker and Harley Quinn Character Analysis Part 1

WARNING: This post is spoiler-filled.

For this post, since it is neither a game review or event, I’ll probably call this a special since I’m going pretty off-road with this. For friends and others that have been following me for a while, you’ll know that I am a huge Harley Quinn fan, and since the release of Suicide Squad, and the Killing Joke animated movie, both the Joker and Harley Quinn have been pretty hyped among fans and non-fans alike. I know this by the number of people planning to be these two for Halloween, so I decided to come out with an analysis.

I’ll be mostly addressing non-fans here to give both a brief background, and also a deeper insight of the characters. I’d like to thank everybody I talked to regarding these, especially Raco (check out his movie reviews!), who got me to question the whole thing in the first place, and to Erika, for convincing me to just post this instead of bugging more people.

Who is the Joker?

What’s his real name? What’s his back story? We don’t know. Or maybe we do, but we’re not sure. (We’ll leave this to your own insight, as you read through the comics.) But you most likely know him as this guy:

Heath Ledger's Joker

Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight is one of the iconic Jokers people know to date. Most of you might already be arguing, “No, it was definitely Mark Hamill/Jack Nicholson/etc.!” but you can’t deny that if you ask anyone on the street, they’ll be thinking about Heath Ledger’s Joker, especially if they haven’t seen the Batman Animated Series.

The Joker is known as one of Batman’s worst villains, a psychopath, and an unpredictable killer. He is one of Arkham Asylum’s most dangerous patients, and the Joker always finds a way to escape, only to be locked up again by Batman. He first appears in the comic Batman #1 back in the 1940s.

Who is Harley Quinn?

Harleen Quinzel. Ex-Arkham Asylum psychiatrist, and the Joker’s girlfriend.

I only became a fan of Harley Quinn in 2014 when I was playing Injustice, then began my journey into reading more about Batman. I was very surprised to have found that Joker even had a girlfriend. She first appears in the Batman Animated Series.

In the Batman Adventures: Mad Love comic, Harley recounts the events of her stay in Arkham as the newbie wanting to take on the most extreme personalities. One of the doctors mention that with her grades from Gotham University (which wasn’t earned by actually studying), she could have expanded to a whole lot of other better opportunities, rather than choosing to intern at Arkham Asylum.

After begging to have a private session with the Joker, she starts to fall in love with him and go crazy herself, unbeknownst to Harley that she was also being used to escape the asylum numerous times.

Harley Quinn and Joker’s Relationship

While she was still Harleen Quinzel, returning to her office, she discovers a rose in a vase, with a note left from the Joker to come see him. It is after these events that the Joker plays around with her name and calls her Harley Quinn and offers to tell her all his secrets, even claiming that he felt he could relate to her. After being forewarned numerous times that she would be swallowed whole by these patients, she decided to be sure she was ready for him until the Joker feigned innocence and vulnerability.

Harley is very weak when it comes to being vulnerable as she is a hopeless romantic. Watching Batman: The Animated Series and reading other comics, we get to clearly see later on how the Joker does not seem to reciprocate Harley’s feelings for him at all, and/or how Harley is head over heels that she remains blind to a toxic relationship.

Obviously, we shouldn’t be believing anything the Joker says, as he is manipulative and will use you to get what he wants, but what he tells her here really piqued my interest, mainly because I didn’t really understand what he meant by taking shots from folks who just don’t get the joke. I was asking my friends for opinions on what they thought this meant because I wondered if it meant something similar to…

(idiom) someone who “calls the shots” aka someone who is in charge

…because as a comedian, you follow your audience. If the audience doesn’t completely get your jokes, you aren’t being witty enough so you have to adjust while remaining original, and study the people. These people that challenge you make you want to impress them. Comedy is one difficult kind of art form that requires work and wit. You see this in Mad Love as the Joker tries to really make a masterpiece to properly kill Batman. Alternatively, “taking shots” can mean getting beat up by people that don’t get your joke, which also applies, since Gordon, Batman, and the police do what they can to keep him from committing crimes.

This is where I notice a sense of humanity in the Joker, how he feels the need to put so much effort into foiling Batman and getting him good. Much like how there are people in the world that want to leave something behind long after they are gone, or commit crimes only to be noticed, the Joker wants to be understood or make a statement in his own fashion. This is exactly what he does in the Killing Joke, in his attempt to show that he is the same as everybody else; he can make Detective Gordon into a lunatic only after one bad day, same as the way he was affected, and same as the way Batman is propelled to exact justice on criminals.

As I mentioned earlier, Harleen is very susceptible to the Joker’s words. One reason why the Joker never really truly “respects” her is because she is not like Batman, not like Gordon, who do not get his jokes. Harley gets it completely, and is actually quite predictable, so he has no major use for her because it does not help him or challenge him, other than tricking her into doing his dirty work, which she happily complies to do in the name of love. Proof of this is from their talk in the private session, where he “opens up” about himself. She feels trusted only to find out that Joker really only twists the information so that it applies to whoever is listening. In denial, she tries to get rid of Batman, noticing Joker’s obsession with killing him only to be stopped by Joker himself.

After Joker shoots Harley Quinn and finds out it was actually Poison Ivy in disguise, Harley demands answers.

Everything I’ve written about Harley up to this point is the general and basic knowledge about her and the way they started out, but can you really believe what the Joker’s girlfriend says?

I’ll admit, I couldn’t see the point in Harley Quinn’s character after a friend pointed it out to me. It seemed like her entire character really just stemmed from the Joker. I wondered if Harley was made to exist to spice up the comics or to even humanize the Joker more, since he doesn’t have a definitive backstory. Even he admits at one point he did start to have feelings for her, which basically meant he had to kill her.

She seemed like such a weak and useless character, and I couldn’t understand how she was her own person, but that didn’t necessarily mean a bad thing for the character; I was just genuinely questioning the importance of her existence to the entire DC Universe, especially when you notice Harley’s trouble with self-identity, which I’ll explain later on.

So going back to the question, knowing all of these, do you think Harley’s exempt from any sort of suspicion? Can we trust her?

Go to Part 2

Agree? Disagree? Violent reactions? Comment below! Let’s make a discussion 😁

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