The Harley Quinn Lobotomy

One would have to be brain-damaged to imagine Harley Quinn’s new ‘direction’ as progressive

Any semi-conscious fan would probably agree that art mediums such as comics and video games that are struggling to be recognized as able to ‘effectively convey serious adult themes’ should stay far away from mixing well-established characters and cheesy T&A (thats Tits and Ass, for all you crazy schoolkids)

As it turns out, most actually do not agree, so lets try that opening again:

Any self-respecting human-being would readily agree that sex-fantasy porn should be kept well away from being intermixed with a worthwhile plot and the characters therein. Unfortunately, it seems these ‘hu-mans’ are in short supply on planet ‘Urf’. As such, a great deal of market research has convinced many-a-company that we heterosexual men are little more than simple, lecherous, undisciplined, uncontrollable, sex-addled freaks who cannot possibly play a well-constructed game or read a thrilling tale without demanding that every female even remotely mentioned be promptly undressed (or arguably even worse, dressed up in some absurd ‘sexy’ fashion). I, for one, vehemently reject this fiction. However, following this insulting logic to its conclusion, heroines and fem. villains alike are ‘naturally’ on the chopping block. In this, DC comics and their video game extensions have headily stumbled into the spotlight.

Which Starfire do you suppose makes a better hero for a child, the first or the second? I know as an adult, I have no respect for the latter incarnation (nor her creators).

There is a great deal of difference between exploring a character’s sexuality in a mature fashion and creating a disgusting parody of the thing. This regression in the way our female heroines are being depicted is clearly illustrated in other gaming generas such as Mortal Kombat, which I have spoken about before at length. The release of DC’s “New 52” reboot of vital characters has created all the wrong kind of hype. Personally, I care about the integrity of both our male AND female heroes, and as it turns out, I’m not alone. From Starfire, to Catwoman, to Harley Quinn, fans who truly love the stories and themes these characters used to pioneer are being sorely disappointed. The much-anticipated game Injustice, will be featuring several classic DC heroines in about as much savvy attire as one can expect to find at a strip club. All respect to women of that profession. Period.
Apparently however (still following this logic), when men think of super-heroines, we think of ‘sexy’ back-flips and when women think of back-flips, they better make sure to keep their costumes unzipped.

women of arkham
Plot-driven, you say? Notice that she is not exposing herself for her fellow characters, but for YOU

Whats that? Catwoman has a background as a sex-worker? Well how fucking convenient! I suppose its actually kind of polite for these current writers to even bother with making a bullshit premise as opposed to just doing it with every female character. Oh no! Whats this…?

Voodoo, the first black female character to get her own DC ongoing series, [is] to open with her stripping on her knees while men throw money at her, because she has a previously established history of being a stripper. But let’s be honest — they didn’t make her a stripper because they really wanted to create a positive and well-rounded portrait of sex workers and how they exist in our culture.

Or did they!?
No. No they didn’t. In fact, this seems to be a pretty consistent theme. Color me a crazy conspiracy theorist, but I’m getting the creeping suspicion this type of bad writing is an excuse to tear down other ways interesting characters and replace them with softcore porn doppelgangers.

classic cat vs new
There is a vast difference between ‘sexy’ and ‘fantasy porn’

OK. Yes, Catwoman has long been established as ‘seductive’. Thats fucking fine! Michelle Pfeiffer did an especially excellent job playing the part live-action. But how pedantic does one have to be to willfully convince themselves there is no difference between playing off a character’s sexuality and objectifying it? There’s a difference between writing a female character as sexually liberated, and writing her as wish-fulfillment-sex-object. This is not empowering for the female readers. This is not empowering for the characters. And this is not amusing to me. This is regressive, offensive, BULLSHIT and it stains everything that this type of garbage is connected to.

This is not about these women wanting things; it’s about men wanting to see them do things, and that takes something that really should be empowering — the idea that women can own their sexuality — and transforms it into yet another male fantasy. It takes away the actual power of the women and turns their “sexual liberation” into just another way for dudes to get off. And that is at least ten times as gross as regular cheesecake, minimum.

Take as a for-example, Batman Arkham City. I wanted to flow with the hype and like that game, I REALLY did. But every time Catwoman would bob her center-mass on screen or turn gaily around to highlight her ‘curves’, I was completely knocked out of the immersion. Catwoman was not the problem. Her representation was. I don’t mind that she has a tight outfit. Whatever. But the overt pandering was ridiculous! The angles the camera chose to focus on were like constantly being forced to looking through the eyes of a hormone-crazed, knuckledragging idiot (I don’t much appreciate that).
Same for the other prominent female character, Harley Quinn.
Holy. Shit.
Harley Quinn.

classic harl vs new
From silly, sassy, and tragic, to borderline hentai idiocy

Honestly? I could forgive all these other infractions if they didn’t also directly affect Harley Quinn. She’s one of my favorite Batman villains, you see. There is something very likable about her. She is silly and crazy, but in a fun way. She is Powerless, so she has to rely on more human methods which makes her a more interesting character–like Batman (except for that little poison-resistance her girlfriend Ivy gifted her with). And finally, she is tragic. Underneath it all, Harley is a broken, abused woman. Now I don’t so much like that last part as I find it astonishing that in the 90s Batman Animated series, the writers were brilliant enough to come up with something so harsh and compelling (and enraged, that in 2013 that idea is being sold as pseudo-porn). Harley Quinn is, as I see it, DC Comic’s icon for abused women.

“Oops, I’ve gone crazy!”

Do you see how fucking insane (in a not-good-way) it is to remake Harley into a sleezebag? Can they not tell? Or are they just such cursory ‘fans’, these people, that they just don’t give a shit? How come there are articles upon articles about the sexism done upon the characters of Catwoman and Starfire but nothing — fucking NOTHING — about the shit that they are putting Harley Quinn through. Not in the comic circles. And not in the gaming clans. What. The. Hell.
Question mark.

I get it. Everyone’s costumes used to be a little ridiculously tight. But its a new era. They upgraded Superman’s outfit to make his tights look more like chainmail armor. Batman no longer looks like he is wearing ‘hocky-pads‘ while Harley Quinn…Harley Quinn looks like she lost her costume and now has to fight in her bra, underwear, and stockings. WTF kind of ‘upgrade’ is that!? Its progress for everyone but the females and its BULLSHIT!

Okay. *breaths*
Here’s what I know:

I know I don’t support games/comics/movies with MY money if they go out of their way to paint women up with giant, bouncing cleavage or who solely depict every female in-cast as a useless bag of luggage. As a man, this is directly offensive to ME because thats what the fucking developers seem to think I want–it ISN’T.

mad love
“You’re wrong! My Puddin’ does love me! He does!”

Some would argue that women need to be women.
I’m not really sure what the fuck that even means exactly, but I’m guessing it has to do with Kitchens or some erroneous notion that femininity is defined by the curvature of an ass.
Its not about pretending women and men are different. The problem is that games/films/graphic-novels empower men yet tend to showcase women in the most prepubescent displays. Its crap. Its not true. And it propagates hate.
There are, however, several brilliant titles that do not do this. Those games/shows are good by me and have me as a fan.

Other people seem to think that complaining in any way at all about the end-result somehow obstructs the free expression of the developers.
Well its not about censorship, you fucking profligate. Its about realism. Realism, even in a fictional setting is still important to the overall tone and immersion. REALISM — not a pervasive element in today’s modern entertainment vision. So when I see REALISM, I fucking applaud. Why anyone would support a lack thereof and still consider themselves intelligent, I have not a clue. Entitlement, probably.
Personally? I’d prefer to see more Empowerment:

Others yet might argue that the characters don’t belong to me so who am I to judge.
Yeah. They belong to the fans. My beef is that I don’t think the change to Harley’s character in Batman Arkham Asylum/City, New 52 and now Injustice was made based in actual need but as some desire to appeal to the dipshits in the male audience (CLEAVAGE!) which directly resulted in a back-peddling of realism. I don’t care who made the changes. Nobody is above scrutiny to their fans. Its what keeps people honest and forces dumbass comedians to re-read their gags–its a damn good thing (now if only this also applied to movie sequels). Further, this new, supposedly more ‘gritty’ reboot is all assbackwards since the original versions not only portrayed Harley’s abuse more effectively but also more viscerally and yet she was not sexualized. Its called CLASS people! It makes no contextual sense to rip apart her appearance (and by extension demeanor) in this way.

In fact, I’d LOVE to see a writer or director in a televised interview say something like, “Well we got a lot of pressure to ‘modify’ her original costume…you know, at least unzip her top or something. But we decided to just this one time hold the torch for all the geek-girls out there and say ‘NO! Go fuck yourself, because these characters aren’t going to do it for you.’

Finally, people might point out that there are more important issues out there so why even bother talking about something like this?
I say this is more than just a discussion of DC comics. This is a discussion about societal norms and is important. Unless of course, like many ‘gamer dudes’, you enjoy having the community be a sausage-only fest and see the loss of that absolute power as a violation of your rights (in which case, Congratulations! the tests came back, and you are officially everything that is wrong with humanity).

abused harley
Even in that nightgown, Harley isn’t being depicted as titillating but as tragic, hiding the pain behind smiles.

The character that we were shown in the 90s was demeaned and broken. She was sorrowful, yet silly and exciting. Thats what Harley is. She is nuts and a villain yet somehow manages to grasp both a tinge of sympathy and intrigue. There is no reason to inflate her (or for that matter, fucking Selena fucking Kyle’s) boobs. They both worked as they were: Harley – crazy, Selena – seductive. Giving them a slutty makeover has nothing to do with character definition and everything to do with catering to the base of the baser lifeforms among us. Its insulting to the characters, its insulting to the fans, and its insulting to women (especially women fans).
I’m a fan. And I’ve had ENOUGH.

  1. velveteyes94 says:

    Well put, I totally agree with your comments on the recent portrayal of Harley. I also love the comments on realism; while understanding the need for silliness/flamboyance for the entertainment, I refuse to believe that any of these characters would choose these outfits of their own volition. It’s almost like all their chests grew overnight and they haven’t had time to find a new costume that doesn’t split open when they breathe?

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