‘Suicide Squad’ quietly confirmed Joker tortures Harley Quinn when no one was looking
I feel like I’ve been talking about Suicide Squad and its treatment of its female characters forever. Maybe it’s just because I went to the set last year, and had to sit on information for so long. Maybe it’s because the movie is clearly doing the New 52 origin of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). Maybe it’s the ongoing sexist treatment of Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). Whatever the case, when I saw that IGN had released a Suicide Squad clip called ‘Really Really Bad’ during San Diego Comic-Con, I just assumed we were finally learning Joker hurt Dr. Harleen Quinzel.
I was right.
For me, this version (from the New 52) of Joker and Harley’s relationship will always ring false. Mad Love was a far superior origin story that dared to explore how anyone gets involved with an abusive partner. It’s by inches, not leaps.
It’s easy to have a psychotic clown torture a woman and throw her in a batch of acid to make her ‘crazy in love.’ It’s far more complicated — but realistic and relatable — to write a charismatic villain who weaves a subtle web of entrapment for his brilliant yet fragile psychiatrist. Domestic abuse rarely starts out cranked up to 11. It’s a slow burn. One where the victim feels loved and cherished, only to have the abuser turn on them on a dime. The Domestic Abuse Project has an excellent overview of the cyclical phases of abuse.
Seeing this Suicide Squad clip on the heels of how Warner Bros. treated Batgirl in the animated version of The Killing Joke indicates to me something is fundamentally broken in their process. Maybe it’s time to add more women to the DC Films writer’s room. And then listen to them.
Suicide Squad arrives in theaters on August 5, 2016.