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Harley Quinn Series Emancipates Its Titular Character While Still Letting Her Be the Bad Guy

The upcoming Harley Quinn show for DC Universe is something I’ve been sort of on the fence about for a long time. Not only am I starting to feel the oversaturation of Harley as a character, but I do also miss her being a more villainous character. I love the emphasis on Harley as a victim of domestic violence, but you can be a victim and also be a morally complex person. But after reading the io9 interview with showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker, I’m excited about the show (but also wondering why there is no female showrunner).

The upcoming series, which is scheduled to run on the DC Universe streaming service, follows Harley Quinn’s adventures after she breaks up with the Joker and decides to just go forward into being a criminal leader in her own right. It’s very similar in concept to the upcoming Birds of Prey movie, which is all about Harley Quinn freeing herself post-Joker breakup, but with a girl gang (gang gang). The showrunners addressed it in the interview, saying,

Schumacker: We pitched this show three years ago to Warner Brothers, and we’re like, “Yeah, we wanna tell a story about Harley staking out on her own. Our version of the character is like a psychotic Mary Tyler Moore who is like upbeat, girl in the big city trying to make it, but she’s trying to make it by murdering fools [laughs]. So, yeah, that’s the focus of the first season is her climbing the ladder of the criminal underworld of Gotham City.

Schumacker then went on to comment on Harley’s villain origins that have been pushed more into the anti-hero side of things. “Always a villain until the New 52 came around, and what Jimmy [Palmiotti] and Amanda [Conner] were doing with the Coney Island stuff and kinda turning her into an antihero. Our show wants to focus on her criminal roots for sure. We were like, ‘Maybe she goes there later’ to the antihero stuff.”

As I’ve said in an earlier piece talking about how Harley has become more and more integrated into the good guy squad, I very much remember Harley helping in the torture and brainwashing of Tim Drake in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, and that was a very dark movie. Tim was deeply traumatized by it, and in the DCEU, she helped kill a Robin.

That’s why I’m glad she’s going to be a bad guy in this show. I think she is a character who lends herself to a lot of potential stories, and hopefully, this one will feel like a good addition to the Birds of Prey.

I think the issue I have to get over is that I just don’t think that Kaley Cuoco sounds like Harley Quinn, to me. Cuoco is an actress I just have a lot of mixed feelings about; her character made the last season of Charmed beyond intolerable, and her comments about not being a feminist because she “was never that feminist girl demanding equality” and likes “the idea of women taking care of their men” (she later retracted the statements in Cosmo) have just always made me eyeroll. Still, if we don’t hold male actors accountable for saying worse, I should be able to let go of that.

I just hope that we get some Ivy/Harley out of this, at least—not to mention the rest of the voice cast looks amazing. We have Christopher Meloni as Commissioner James Gordon, Giancarlo Esposito as Lex Luthor, Sanaa Lathan as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Jacob Tremblay as Damian Wayne/Robin, and we know Phil Lamar will have a voice role in the series, too.

All this and more, November 29, 2019.

(via io9, image: DC Universe)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.