Crazy in Love: A retrospective into The Joker and Harley Quinn’s abusive relationship in Batman – The Animated Series
While we know the relationship of Harley Quinn and The Joker is not all butterflies and rainbows, is it really something to look up to? Is there really a hidden love for Harley under The Joker’s abusive facade? We here at The Nerd Recites are here to answer that question! This article is the beginning of a series where we run through all variations of the mad relationship, and analyze different aspects that will give us the conclusion on just how healthy and loving their relationship is.
No matter where you go, you will always find people who believe that The Joker and Harley Quinn are the best, twisted couple to ever grace comic books. Some even idolize their relationship and are, “looking for their Harley or Joker,” seeing them as two people who love each other despite being crazy.
It is mostly those who do not fully know the comics, shows, or full extent of the Joker and Harley’s relationship that grab onto it, and twist it into something it is not. Many see the abuse Joker throws at Harley and quickly dismiss it, and instead play on the few, small moments where they are sweet to eachother. Other defenders use the excuse of BDSM, but most in the community will quickly deny that while BDSM is safe, sane, and consensual none of those apply to Joker and Harley’s relationship.
We start off in Batman: The Animated Series where Harley makes her first appearance as the girlfriend and sidekick of The Joker.
In the first episode we do not get a lot of info about Harley. She mainly just shows up as his new assistant, but quickly becomes a fan favorite. While there is not a lot that goes on in her first few episodes, it quickly becomes clear that their relationship is not as simple as two villains who lovingly commit crimes together, but the opposite. It becomes clear that their relationship is the Joker taking advantage of someone who idolizes him and wants to make him proud. Harley is constantly looking for approval from Joker, but is constantly yelled at, hit, and berated.
While Harley shows have a very childish and ditzy side, in the episode The Man Who Killed Batman, it was shown that she can act very mature when pretending to be a lawyer; even her famous New York accent was gone during her role. It was short lived however as she went back to her jester costume, and not long after was thrown across the room by the Joker who was upset by Batman not showing up and believing him to be dead.
Joker, Harley, his henchman, and the one who they thought killed Batman held a little funeral for the superhero.
Harley, in an attempt to cheer up her boyfriend says, “You know what’s great about you Puddin’? You really put the fun in funeral.”
To this he lightly held her cheek and gave her an endearing smile, even though he immediately went back to having a frown to sulk about the death of Batman. While Batman wasn’t really dead, this episode shows how wishy-washy their relationship is from the start, and how easily it is to get Harley to stay by showing small acts of affection.
Even so, it’s not like the Joker can function perfectly without Harley. After kicking her out in the episode Harley and Ivy, she went on a heist by herself and ended up making friends with Poison Ivy. Without her, his hideout was a mess, their hyenas, which Harley calls her babies, were left unfed, and Joker couldn’t even find his laundry. He also became upset that she was perfectly fine without him and was stealing his thunder as Gotham’s most feared villain alongside Ivy.
Of course Harley couldn’t stay away from him long and contacted him secretly. Joker used that chance to trace the call and go after her. Of course all three of them were taken prisoner at the end, and Harley expressed she hopes things work out between her and her “puddin.”
In the next season we get a little more information and start to see Harley finally bite back at the Joker. In the episode Trial, where a handful of villains put Batman on trial, we hear Harley’s real name, Harleen Quinzel, and how she was a doctor there at Arkham. Upon finding out he ratted her out in hopes of getting tie off, Harley then grabs Joker by the collar and shakes him as she calls him names.
The episode Harlequinade also greatly extends on how back-and-forth the couple is in terms of how they treat each other.
Batman asks for Harley’s help in finding the Joker, because the mad clown stole a bomb that could blow up the entire city. She declined at first, but ends up helping on the grounds she gets full pardon of her crimes. In one part she sings a song to distract some mob guys to save Batman. This song obviously tells of some of the horrible things the Joker has done to her, as well as foreshadows some of the things that happen in the prequel series.
In the end she ends up mocking Batman and Robin for not realizing that the Joker was away with the Mayor as a hostage. She gets handcuffed, but once Batman reaches Joker she appears without the restraints, and ties up the two heroes, saying that the deal was off when Batman tried to hurt Joker. She jumps into Joker’s arms and he, surprised, but delighted, invites Harley to escape with him on a plane, and sets a bomb timer for 10 minutes.
Robin mention that Joker wouldn’t have had time to pick up Harley before the bomb would have gone off. She asks Joker if he would have come back for her and The Joker over sweetly reassures her. She however begins to go on a rant about how they won’t be able to save their friends from jail, but Joker shoves her back into the plane. Batman mentions the hyenas and she immediately gets riled back up.
She grabs a hold of Joker’s collar and screams, “The babies! We can’t leave the babies!”
He replies with pushing her back in my her face and saying, “I’ll buy you a goldfish! Let’s go!”
With a “No!” she pushes back, and of course he does too, but he then gets thrown back by a high kick to the face.
She unties Batman and Robin, and the Joker sends the plane towards the bomb. Harley fires a spring loaded Joker head that hits Joker and puts him into a daze.
When he walks out of the wreckage she points a machine at him to which he says she wouldn’t dare and doesn’t have the guts. She tears up and pulls the trigger to which he flinches, but all that pops out is a flag that says, “RAT TAT TAT.” Harley looks afraid of what the Joker’s reaction will be, but he just ends up laughing and says “Baby, you’re the greatest!” She squeals and then runs into his arms where she is embraced back.
Just this episode gives a lot to take in as to the type of relationship they hold. While The Joker is the one who usually pulls the strings it seems that Harley can be pushed off the edge as well,. But it also seems that regardless of the case, she will still run right back to him. It was clear that the only reason she agreed to help Batman and Robin at all was to get out and be reunited with Joker. Whether she knew before hand that the machine gun was rigged or not goes unknown.
After this Harley is actually released back into society after taking rehabilitation therapy and proven to be sane. To fans her sanity is still questionable, because she still keeps her oblivious, Harley persona. It makes fans wonder if she could have gotten proven sane through simple, good behavior, or if she just knew how to get through the psychiatric system.
Her freedom goes well until she tries to buy a dress that makes the security alarm go off. A security guard attempts to take the security tag off the dress, but Harley snaps. She gets right back into her jester suit, blames society for pushing her back into the lifestyle of crime, and has fight with Batman. After being subdued and brought back the Arkham Asylum Batman hands Harley the dress she wanted to buy. Flattered, she kisses him, then throws the dress and kisses him again. It’s interesting that she doesn’t feel any guilt when kissing someone other than “Mistah J” with how obsessive she is, but it could be a result of how unstable their relationship is.
Some can’t wrap their heads around how anyone could have fallen in love with The Clown Prince of Crime to the point of blindly taking his mistreatment. This series is what brought us the amazing character, Harley, but it is also what shows us how she and the Joker do not have the best of relationships.
In the next article we look over the prequel series, The New Batman Adventures and the one-shot comic, Mad love to get a better insight of how Harley met the Joker and how their relationship started. In these two mediums and get to see more of just how brutally the Joker handles Harley, and throws her away, but even get a glimpse at how it is the Joker’s feelings that pushes him to do so. So stay tuned to see more of these two mad clowns and and what their relationship holds!
Images: DC Comics / Warner Bros.