It Was Not Harley’s Fault… A Rant

So The Suicide Squad disappointed at the box office (which kind of surprises me) and now everybody has to give a reason why and one of the worst reasons I saw in several places is Harley Quinn.

I’ve heard that she’s overexposed and that Birds of Prey devalued her. And now the controversial opinions I was working is going to turn into a rant about that and D.C. overall my apologies ahead of time for any swearing. It’s been a trying week and now this shit.

Is Harley overexposed? Has she been devalued?

I’m obviously a huge fan of the character so no. She’s probably less over-exposed than any of the Avengers or Loki ever were. The main portrayals of her in the 3 movies and even in the excellent Harley Quinn (which no one really watches- don’t you have to be a hit to be overexposed???) series have been relatively consistent in my opinion despite the obvious differences in the animated series. (Hello Ivy.)

Why are people even saying she’s overexposed? And my question are they going to say the same thing about Spiderman if the No Way Home rumors turn out to be true? Are people going to talk about Batman as a character being devalued when we get 3 different versions on screen next year?

Probably not.

Harley Quinn

As far as her being devalued by Birds of Prey… well I wasn’t fond of that movie only because the Birds of Prey and Cassandra Cain were the ones who got the short end of that stick. Was that a bad idea that apparently Robbie herself went with over Gotham City Sirens? Yes.

Is she perhaps more of a niche character than Warner Brothers would have hoped? Maybe.

But the sad thing about this commentary is James Gunn and Margot Robbie actually gave the best version of the character so far (again outside of the animated show and some excellent graphic novels that people mostly ignore anyway) and he actually kept her from stealing the show or making it all about her!

I mean art is subjective and it’s all down to personal opinion. I admit a week ago I’d have been like oh the summer box office isn’t doing great because of Corona and sorry Hollywood it’s all been mediocre and forgettable. But then The Suicide Squad turns out to be a nice surprise and it does even worse than people expect. Although I still want to see about word of mouth on this one.

But I just don’t see how it was Harley Quinn’s fault. Frankly in my personal experience the people who didn’t want to see The Suicide Squad or insisted on watching it on HBOMax almost all cited how much the first one was a disappointment but yet there’s an equal number of people I’ve seen on social media yelling for the Ayers cut. As though somehow it would have a better villain.

Ivy and Harley in the Harley Quinn Show

The strange thing about Warner Brothers DC experiments in some instances when they have something that is successfully they then give the people they think are responsible for it near total power forgetting that successes are often shared. (Patty Jenkins did great directing Wonder Woman but it was probably a terrible idea for her to fire the main writer and the stunt team for the second movie.)

Margot is a great Harley Quinn but she needs a stronger screenwriter than Christina Hobson (Robbie is working with Greta Gerwig on the upcoming Barbie movie and she could do a great Gotham City Sirens script. Emerald Fennell who just won the Oscar for writing Promising Young Woman is doing the Katana script and she would have been great as well!)

Not to mention the writers of the excellent Harley Quinn show!

I’ve seen people suggest doing a wild live-action episode of that show and I’d love to see that. Kaley Cuoco has really made that role her own and while Lake Bell never would have been my choice for Ivy now I can’t not see it.

And that’s the other thing about the future of Harley Quinn… if we aren’t going backwards (please no) to the Joker and we’re going to Ivy I don’t want any weak ass casting for Ivy. (Sorry with the exception of the excellent Jurnee Smollett I thought the rest of the Birds of Prey were not very well cast at all.)

I’m going to roll this rant up but among the many reasons The Suicide Squad didn’t do as well as expected well it’s horse shit that Harley would even make the top ten.

13 comments

    • It’s such a mixed bag isn’t it? I mean if any film should be R you would think this property would and it didn’t hurt Deadpool, Logan, Joker. But yeah I think streaming hurts to because I could go on Youtube the next day and watch pretty much whatever clip I wanted from the movie. So if you’re only semi-interested in the first place why bother with the whole thing?

  1. I finally watched the film last night and she was my favorite part of it. I agree with what you said about how they could have easily centered the film around her because she lights up the screen, but they kept her as a sub-character and it worked. I actually really enjoyed the film for the most part. I read a few other articles on why this didn’t do well and it seems like a mix of understanding what this movie is (is it a sequel etc), the R rating, and the mixed reactions over the first film and Will Smith not being in it.

    Overall, I liked the film a lot and I agree that this was the best moment for her so far.

    • I saw the Will Smith thing too. Honestly I preferred Idris. (I think this is the better movie so maybe that’s not a fair comparison) but I just felt he had a gruff almost seriousness that worked better in the role. But like I said who knows what Gunn could have done for Smith’s character? He made me tear up for Rick Flagg for Pete’s sake!

  2. Blaming Harley for the film bombing is silly. if anything, she’s one of the biggest draws and Margot gets constant praise for her performance. I’d wager the people saying it’s her just hate women a bit.

    To me, HBO Max is the biggest reason it failed. That’s where I watched it too, why would I go to a theater in a pandemic when I can watch it at home for free? I’m sure it did amazing numbers there.

    • Yep it’s funny the price of premiere access has stopped me from biting on a couple of those films but HBO Max? I mean I already pay for it. That’s how I watched every film they released this year and honestly I wouldn’t have gone to the theater for some of them anyway. Dune will be the only exception… and then I’ll come home and watch it 30 more times I’m sure 🙂

  3. I agree it is not Hatleys fault, she was great. personally for me, I did not enjoy it as much as the first movie for 2 reasons: 1 the soundtrack for the first movie was awesome, the new one – no. 2 and more importantly the second movie was unnecessarily violent, completely and utterly disgusting. I actually remember hearing myself say “ewww” and that is gross so many times. The first one did not need that level of violence.

    • Yeah James Gunn unleashed is usually too much for me. I really loved the character work in this one so it balanced it out for me but I get what you’re saying.

  4. Rant on! And I absolutely agree. I adore Harley as a character, too (in fact, I’d say she’s one of the most important characters of the last ten years when you look at how the Conner/Palmiotti run developed her and how they have used her to honestly explore trauma and abusive relationships and healing from it), and I’d say – if anything – we need more of her. There’s NO WAY she’s overexposed!!! As you said above, look at Spider-Man! There’s like 4,000 Spidey cartoons, over a dozen movies (counting Avengers ones), and more comics a month than any other character. In fact, I’d just read an academic text on comics that looked at sales and said, based on merchandising, Spider-Man is more popular than anyone else, outselling both Batman and Superman. So how can three movies, one cartoon series, and a monthly comic be overexposing her??

    Honestly (and this idea is forming as I type so bear with me if it doesn’t make sense…), I wonder if we as a culture know what to do with Harley Quinn. She has a huge fanbase and Jim Lee himself has said, “I refer to her as the fourth pillar in our publishing line, behind Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.” So she’s popular and she’s popular because people respond to her. But I wonder if culture at large knows what to make of her? She’s so much more complex than so many other comic characters. She’s funny and unpredictable but also open and caring yet she’s marked by her trauma and she seeks to heal and all of that is leaned into in a very real, very accurate way (more directly in the comics and the HBO Max show than the films but we’ve had less story time in the movies and she’s always sharing the screen with other characters). Maybe because she doesn’t fit into a traditional box in the superhero/villain/antihero category she becomes an easy scapegoat?

    I don’t know. But I thought ‘The Suicide Squad’ was brilliant. I believe it was the second highest viewed debut on HBO Max so I bet Covid ends up being the reason behind its faltering box office, as with ‘Black Widow.’ But I can’t imagine why anyone would blame Harley Quinn. That’s so annoying! So thank you for the rant and for speaking truth into the madness.

    • There is an argument that the general audience which mostly knows her through the movies has only ever been told her backstory and maybe glimpses of the relationship with the Joker in Suicide Squad. My little fan girl heart would love to see an adaptation of the recent Stjepan Sejic work because I thought that was an incredible look at her mental health even before she meet the Joker.

      I do think Harley does best bouncing off the stronger characters of Gotham (and with great writers) I know it’s just a pipe dream but I’d love to see an adaptation of that work with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. (I didn’t hate Leto’s character but for me if you’re going to do a Joker and an actor who can truly get into people’s minds who can get under their skin and f**k with them he’d be the way to go. Plus I don’t get the impression Margot would be up for another round with Jared.) That’s why if and when they do Gotham City Sirens I think the casting for Ivy is going to be so important!

      Your point about the culture at large not knowing what to make of her is a good one. I think on top of that even for the fandom that love her she’s probably a character that a lot of people project onto sometimes very personally and passionately… and there’s so much that can be written about her! Luckily I don’t think Warner Brothers is going to change course although it’s WB so who the heck knows what they’ll do anymore???

      • OH MY GOSH…can you imagine Margot Robbie in an adaptation of Stjepan Sejic’s ‘Harleen’?!!? What a brilliant way to reframe Harley’s origin/tell it in its entirety in the films! Given how the DCEU seems to be in a state of flux, that would be a perfect way to a) give Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn a firm foundation in the films as well as b) introduce a new Joker/bring Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker in. That could be AMAZING – heck, that could be Oscar worthy – if adapted by the right people!

        And I agree, I never thought Jared Leto’s Joker was as bad as so many people think. It wasn’t my favorite take but not world ending. I would love if they found the right Joker for Margot’s Harley though – whether Joaquin Phoenix (which would be excellent!) or another actor. That would be another huge plus to adapting the Stjepan Sejic material – they could give us Harley with the Joker in that film and then bring him back in the present to have Harley face off against the Joker in her new independent life. That would make for a powerful, thoughtful, and exciting few films! Ivy would be a natural part of a story like that, too. And WOW can you imagine the pressure on the people who are in charge of casting Ivy?!? So much rides on that and so much can flow from that if they do it right.

        I like your point about the fandom projecting onto Harley, too. I think we tend to do that with the characters we love in general but I (and again, this idea is just forming as I read your point so bear with me…) think Harley invites that in a special way. On the one hand, she is so wild and unpredictable so it’s easier to read her in our own way than it is with more static characters. On the other hand, because her character deals with such deeply personal issues (abuse, trauma, healing, a troubled past, struggling with self-identity, etc.) I think her very nature invites fans to project their own journeys with any/all of those issues onto her as well. In that way, Harley creates a very special sort of connection, resonating with people while also being a source of strength/inspiration and a mirror for our own struggles and growth, too. Her complexity lets us all finds bits of ourselves in her and the bits we find, given the dynamic depth of her character, are often some of the most important and/or fragile and/or strong parts of ourselves and I think those fosters that personal, passionate ties.

      • I hope there’s pressure to find a perfect Ivy 🙂 I tend to think D.C. is a lot more hit and miss with their casting than Marvel tends to be. To be fair I’ve never been able to pick one perfect Ivy even in my head usually tends to swing on whoever I think should be writing it. I love the way she’s written on the Harley Quinn show though.

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