Why Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s Relationship Deserves a Spotlight in James Gunn’s DC Universe
The live-action DC Universe is getting a makeover, with James Gunn revamping beloved franchises in his unique vision. The previous iteration of the DCEU swung several times with far too many misses, including their interpretation of Harley Quinn and the severe lack of Poison Ivy in her life.
Throughout their entire existence in comic books and animated series, the relationship between these two female villains has always been important, especially the ones revolving around a budding romance.
For the most part, Harley Quinn is best known as the Joker’s sidekick/girlfriend on screens big and small, and this relationship has been seen through rose-tinted goggles. Suicide Squad (2016), for example, romanticized the union between the Joker and Harley without highlighting the abuse that is so common in DC canon.
Following the release of Suicide Squad (2016), Harley Quinn and the Joker became a popular couples costume for Halloween. The film depicted a more loving Joker that cared enough about Harley to rescue her from her Suicide Squad duties, which he would never do in all other mediums. This portrayal left casual fans unaware of the canonically unhealthy Joker/Harley relationship.
Unlike the live-action DCEU, the animated universe did not shy away from the abuse Harley Quinn received at the hands of the Joker. For example, Batman: The Animated Series — the medium from which she originates — includes an episode following the Mad Love storyline in which the Joker attempts to kill Harley; he throws her out of the window because she captured Batman, enraging him due to his belief that Batman is his to capture/torture.
As the voice of concern, Poison Ivy always expresses her distaste for the Joker and points out his abusive ways because she deeply cares about Harley. Even when LGBTQ+ representation was lacking in popular media, Poison Ivy has showed a degree of affection for Harley at a more-than-platonic level.
In Batman: The Animated Series, this connection is immediately established when she partners up with Harley and she even injects her with a serum making her immune to her toxins, which Ivy does not do for just anyone. The same is true in the Harley Quinn comic series seen in the New 52 and Beyond storylines which even included romantic affection like kissing (before a relationship was actually confirmed). Finally, after a long wait, their romance was confirmed following years of queer coding, and this relationship became a significant part of the Harley Quinn animated series on HBO Max.
With the live-action DC Universe being rebooted by James Gunn, a relationship with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy has great potential. He has already improved on the character in The Suicide Squad (2021), in which Harley talks about the abuse she previously faced. But, still her queer side is not explored and Poison Ivy has yet to appear. Margot Robbie, who plays Harley Quinn in the DCEU, wants Poison Ivy’s presence in the DC Universe and the exploration of their romance.
With Margot Robbie so accepted by fans as their live-action Harley Quinn, it’s hard to argue against her rallying. I mean… she is Harley Quinn and she cares enough about her portrayal to do her own stunts and live out her character’s truth… and her truth is tied to her relationship with Poison Ivy!
In general, with comic book characters, the existence of popular films, as seen in the MCU, have brought many characters into the forefront increasing their popularity over others. Out of the popular characters in both DC and Marvel, not many are LGBTQ+, if any. Harley Quinn rose to stardom when antiheroes were surfacing into the spotlight.
First, she was mostly known as the Joker’s sidekick, but her solo story became something that many fans resonated with, and she won over the hearts of many with her resilience and charisma. Additionally, Poison Ivy has always been a well-known Batman villain who became more of an antihero once she developed a friendship with Harley Quinn.
With everyone and their mother knowing about Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, this provides the perfect opportunity to create representation for the LGBTQ+ community and to normalize queer relationships. Erasing this identity in the live-action DC Universe would do a disservice to LGBTQ+ fans.
Yes, Harley Quinn has gained popularity, but live-action comic book universes have come to the forefront ever since the existence of the MCU. Where the DCEU initially failed to compete with the MCU, James Gunn’s rebooted universe needs to focus on providing better content, and that includes representation.
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