Hey, Gotham City Sirens Movie? You Better Not Screw Up Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy’s Romance
Ever since the rumors began to swirl about Margot Robbie producing a solo Harley Quinn movie—which has now officially become a Gotham City Sirens movie, featuring Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman—I’ve been on the front lines, reading every news item about the movie and maintaining a spirit of optimism towards it that, uh, might be unearned.
What can I say, I’m a Harley Quinn fan. I’ve made no secret of that, around here—yes, she’s a character that has her problems, but I think she’s had some great storylines too. I just really wanted this movie to be a slam dunk, okay? Honestly, I also wanted Suicide Squad to be a slam dunk, but I already didn’t get my wish for that. Doesn’t mean it’s too late to redirect course when it comes to Harley, though, and that’s what I was hoping Margot Robbie’s project would do.
Unfortunately, thanks to some rumors and new items that have emerged this week, it is now time for me to take a step back and write an “I’m concerned” post. Here’s my list:
1.) David Ayer, who directed Suicide Squad, has been tapped to direct this movie, too. (via THR)
My immediate reaction to this was, “What? No. WHY?” Which—sorry, Mr. Ayer, but I saw Suicide Squad, and I just didn’t agree with your take.
To walk this back slightly, I do realize that Ayer isn’t the only person responsible for the problems with that movie. The fact that many of the characters came across as unlikable and irredeemable is also the fault of the script, the editing, and perhaps even the actors involved—although I think many of them did the best they could (particularly Margot Robbie, Will Smith, and Viola Davis, all of whom I lauded in my otherwise-negative review). The problem is that the overall aesthetic of Suicide Squad just didn’t sit well with me. The atmosphere, the tone, the MySpace fonts all over the screen… it just wasn’t my thing, Mr. Ayer, so I’m hesitant to see you back in the directors’ chair with (some of) the same characters.
I wanted Batman: The Animated Series, and instead, David Ayer gave me Hot Topic. And not, like, late-90s Hot Topic, where it’s goth and corny but you kind of love it. More like, current-day Hot Topic. As in, you look at the shelves, and you’re like, “There’s a lot of stuff going on here, and some of it is great, but a lot of it is an overpriced ‘geeky’ branding opportunity that is just capitalizing on my love of a pre-existing franchise and selling it in the form of an object that will crumble into dust after I wear it once, but I’m here and I’m buying it because I do love this franchise, but I also kind of hate myself for buying this and I wish it came in a more high-quality package.” That’s Suicide Squad.
Did that metaphor make sense?
Anyway, I understand that Suicide Squad cleaned up at the box office. I think a lot of Batman fans went to see the movie on faith and out of a love for the characters, and they didn’t even mind if it made no sense, because that love and deep-seated fandom allowed them to get through it all. But it also would’ve been nice if the movie was actually good, right?
Maybe I’m wrong, and David Ayer can turn out a great version of Gotham City Sirens. I’m glad Margot Robbie’s producing, and I’m glad she’s been seeking out female screenwriters, but… why David Ayer? Is he only on board because the box office draw for Suicide Squad was good? I just don’t see why DC keeps sticking directors on sequels when their first take already got panned by critics (see: Zack Snyder). I realize Batman v Superman also got a big box office draw, but how much longer is that going to last? I’m unsure that DC fans are going to keep going to these movies if they keep on being… well, boring.
2.) Megan Fox is rumored to be in consideration for Poison Ivy. (via /Film)
This one is definitely just a rumor, as opposed to an actual news item. Still, I think it says a lot that Megan Fox’s name would be the one that springs to mind for people when it comes to considering Poison Ivy’s character, and it speaks to some of the concerns that I have about how that character might end up getting depicted on screen.
Historically, Poison Ivy has been positioned as a femme fatale and object of lust for the male characters of Batman, particularly for Batman himself. That’s changed a bit over the years, even over the course of Batman: The Animated Series and definitely within the pages of Gotham City Sirens. More recently, we’ve gotten to see female writers take a stab at writing Poison Ivy, with Amy Chu’s excellent (and not-talked-about-enough) Poison Ivy solo series, and Marguerite Bennett writing the budding (heh, plant puns) romance between Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn in the alt-history world of DC Bombshells. The depiction of Ivy has changed as a result of that work, but it’s undeniable that she started out as a much more simplistic character, and many people just don’t look beyond that initial characterization of her and see anything deeper there.
Megan Fox has been type-cast as a “bombshell” love interest type for her entire career, often in action movies, and in those roles, she really hasn’t had a chance to shine in terms of her acting… to a point where, honestly, I have no idea if she’s able to play a more serious, meaty, difficult role. It’s also possible that this version of Poison Ivy won’t be a serious role. And, if so, that’s depressing.
Whoever ends up playing Poison Ivy, I can only hope that the script and circumstances will give them something more to do than have a “poisonous kiss” and be presented as an object for the male gaze. Many iterations of Ivy have focused only on that, with no nuance at all. I can certainly point to Batman & Robin as one regrettable example, but even in the first LEGO Batman game, Poison Ivy’s finishing move was a poisonous kiss that would seduce enemies.
Wearing poisonous lipstick and seducing people into death is kind of Poison Ivy’s whole deal, though, and I do love it and I get it. I just don’t want that to be the only thing about her. I also want to see her motivations portrayed in a way that calls to mind her ultimate drive to save the planet from humans’ meddling. That villainous motivation puts her in a slightly different category than the Batman-obsessed mindset of many other DC villains. She does use her sexuality to manipulate people, and I’d really like to see a sex-positive take on that, in terms of screenwriting–but also in terms of the type of camera angles that will be used in the movie. Will the audience be invited to relate to Poison Ivy … or will we be asked to look at her butt? Time will tell, folks.
3.) This movie will be a love story between Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. (via MoviePilot.com)
This one is just a rumor. Kind of. Well… hm.
So, in Suicide Squad, we didn’t exactly see Harley Quinn and the Joker breaking up, but we did see their relationship was on the rocks and that Harley Quinn wasn’t getting the level of emotional support she deserved. (Classic, for the two of them—given that theirs has always been an abusive relationship.) In the original Gotham City Sirens books, Harley pulls herself away from the Joker and eventually falls in love with Poison Ivy… or so it always seemed, except that the books got canceled to make way for the New 52, thereby setting Harley back up with the Joker once again.
As for whether Harley Quinn is destined to end up with the Joker or Poison Ivy, in the end… well, it’s a point of contention in Batman fandom, even now, and the answer depends on which writer you ask. But it’s probably worth noting that Paul Dini, creator of Harley Quinn and writer of the Gotham City Sirens series, sees Poison Ivy as Harley Quinn’s endgame:
“Love is Love”
A sweet Harley & Ivy short written by @Paul_Dini. pic.twitter.com/IP8Dmivfhi
— Best of DC Comics (@BestOfDCComics) November 22, 2016
So, why am I listing the Harley/Ivy romance as a point of “concern” about this movie? Shouldn’t I be happy about the idea of Ivy/Harley ending up on the silver screen?
Let’s just say… I’ll be happy if they do it in a way that’s respectful. And, so far, I’m just not sure whether that’s going to happen, or whether the movie will confirm the existence of a relationship between these women at all. Based on precedent, I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie instead settled for queerbaiting their relationship, rather than canonically confirming one. It’s also possible their relationship will be presented as a joke, or offered up for straight male viewers to consume. Let’s just say that there are a lot of ways this could go wrong.
It’s taken the comic books years to even include a canonical kiss between these two women, and even now, they’re often also paired with male partners in addition to hooking up with one another—which is fine, because it’s cool to see some polyamorous representation in comics… but, to be honest, I’m not sure if the motivation behind those stories is to give queer, poly women representation. I think it’s actually just that, as it stands now, the comics can’t quite envision a queer romance between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy that isn’t also positioned as being “for” straight men, and which also involves straight men, at least in the background as potential options for them. Heck, it’s taken years for DC creators and fans to even accept that Harley Quinn can have a life and an identity that doesn’t revolve around the Joker’s approval. Many fans still haven’t accepted that.
That doesn’t mean it’s never going to happen, and the fact that there are more women writers taking on the characters gives me some hope about how their pairing will be approached and depicted in future. I think it’s also likely that the comic books will end up being more progressive than a big-budget movie, because the audience is smaller and it’s easier to take risks in one-shots and spin-off issues. This Gotham City Sirens movie, on the other hand, is probably going to play it safe. And I think we all know what “playing it safe” looks like, when it comes to depicting queer romances.
It’s entirely possible this movie will still turn out great, though. You all know I’m crossing my fingers super-hard for that. And, uh, I’m probably going to go regardless. I went into Suicide Squad with an open mind, and I still ended up disliking some of the choices made, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t willing to give the movie a chance—and I feel the same way about this movie. I loved Margot Robbie’s all-too-brief scenes as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, and it seems like she cares about doing right by this movie. Plus, it’s pretty far off from a finished product, so there are going to be lots of opportunities to change course and redirect and alter the vision of the movie.
I expect news items about this movie to continue to be a roller coaster for a while yet. So, I’m not going to take any of these news items too seriously.
Just kidding, I’m taking it all way too seriously but it’s only because I CARE TOO MUCH. But hey, that’s why we’re here, right? Because we care.
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