[Trigger warning! If you don’t like ’em, don’t read ’em. Skip past the square brackets. You have been warned about the trigger warning. Here is that Trigger Warning. It’s happening any second now. Go away if you don’t want to read it. It may contain spoilers for the article. You have been warned so many times, so if you don’t like trigger warnings, you better have fudged off to the actual actual article already. Right. Now that’s sorted, Trigger Warning: Brief suggestions of domestic abuse, and a brief mention of self harm. Probably other stuff aswell, but I think those are the main ones.]
There was once a girl. She was everything to me. I like to think that, for a little while at least, I was everything to her as well. We saw each other at our worst, and at our best. We saw each other, really and truly. She’s gone now. It’s for the best.
This article isn’t about her. This article is about someone so much more important. This article is about a girl called Harley Quinn.
She was first a cartoon, and then a collection of rather shapely pixels, and now she’s a lovely lady on cinema screens all over the world, with a heart-warming smile and a terribly frosty midriff. She’s an icon, someone people can look up to, hands tucked deep in pockets, out of view. She’s a positive icon for female sexuality, a guidebook for self-acceptance, a frontline warrior in the fight for mental health. She’s amazing. I love her.
The camera in Suicide Squad loves her just as much as I do, it’s clear. The lens lingers on her at every opportunity, proving that this is her movie, her chance to shine. It’s been a long time coming, Harley Quinn on the big screen. It had to happen eventually, and so it seems appropriate that now she’s finally here, she’s absolutely the focus of the feature. The director has clearly gone to extreme lengths to highlight Harley as the main character; in the director’s commentary for the film David Ayer explained he had to wear special pads on his knees because he spent so long on the floor during shooting.
He was keen to film Harley primarily in low angle shots, so as to suggest to the audience she is the one in power.
He wasn’t content to merely copy the same low angle shots we see in every other film, however. He wanted the way the film looked to represent the characters on screen. Margot Robbie, who plays Harley Quinn, said recently in an interview with IGN.com “I really appreciate the effort David Ayer and the crew went to highlight how different Harley isas a character. That’s why I was attracted to the part in the first place, I mean, she’s such a complicated person, she’s so different from every other roll out there, especially in superhero films, y’know? And it was such a smart move, on David Ayers part, to take a classic filmic technique like the low angle shot, and to just shift the camera around, to take a really ordinary shot and make it something unique. It really reflects on Harley’s Character, which just shows how much everyone on set appreciated Harley.” What Margot is referencing here is how the low angle shots in Suicide Squad are often filmed from behind the character, rather than from in front of her.
It’s a genius idea, one that really enhances the themes of the movie by literally twisting the common into the uncommon, and demonstrates the attention to detail present throughout the picture. Harley is a twisted woman, complex and intriguing, and the frequency with with she is filmed from behind only highlights the backwards nature of her character.
Furthermore, an unintentional side effect of the camerawork is the new found positioning of Harley as a sex symbol. Thanks to her firm place as the films lady-lead, she inevitably comes under the lusty gaze of a thousand frustrated teenagers. When my eyes first found themselves lingering upon Harley Quinn, her red lips twisted into that delicious smile, it was impossible not to remark upon her obvious sexuality. But what makes Harley such a positive role model for young women is the way she owns her sexuality. It’s her choice to dress this way. She gets to choose what she wears, and the fact that it’s her choice is immensely empowering.
“I made Harley dress like she does” David Ayer told the Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview, “because I wanted to really show off the power of female sexuality. A lot of people will tell you a women can’t be powerful and sexy, which just isn’t true. This was my Harley, she was mine, so I had to make sure she dressed right. We made sure to keep in the scene where she’s getting changed, just to really hit home that it was her choice, and Margot, she was so good about it, she took that top off like a real pro. Me and the lads in editing were so impressed, it was just, pwaaah, y’know?”
So again it’s incredibly clear how intentional the film was in its depiction of Harley Quinn. They understood the character, and they presented her to us as strong, sexy, and empowered. Girls all over the world should see this film. In fact the first time I myself it watched it was with my then girlfriend. I really thought she could learn a lesson or two from Harley, and told her as much. She didn’t listen, so it’s no surprise we’re where we are now. But still, I think that’s something dads and boyfriends should all be giving a go. Get the girls in your life to watch Suicide Squad. It’ll be good for them.
Harley is an impressive role model for those with mental health problems as well. She succeeds where years of therapy so often fails; she makes those who are suffering from a case of weird-brain feel okay with themselves. “It’s cool to be strange” said Violet, a sixteen year old girl from Durham Secondary School. “It used to be tricky, yeah, because people would see you and think, what a freak! It was really lonely and shiz.” Violet was speaking to the BBC for a documentary about teenage sexting called ‘Snapshot: Our Children’s Hidden Lives’. After a series of lengthy interviews with parents, the show, in its last five minuets, finally turned its attention to the teenagers who were so readily discussed. Inevitably, the talk turned to Harley Quinn. “Thing is” Violet went on, “Suicide Squad came out a few months ago, and like, it really shook stuff up yeah? See, I used to be real ashamed of my scars, because like, it was embarrassing and stuff. I’d get panic attacks before swimming lessons, cos I was so scared someone would see my legs and be like, she’s a freak. But now I don’t care, I mean, I wear short shorts all day, like, boys think it’s hot yeah? It’s like, being a freak is sexy, it’s like, they accept us for who we are and all. The girls who used to get all the boys are the new weirdos, because it ain’t hot to have blonde hair and big boobs anymore. Loads of them have started self-harming now so they can fit in, it’s like, awesome yeah?”
Clearly the films influence has allowed people to finally accept who they are, no matter what that happens to be. Harley is crazy, but she’s got things sorted, so why can’t the rest of us be crazy too? The Joker has the word ‘Damaged’ written across his forehead for the duration of the film, a further indication that the films true message is one of self acceptance. The Joker wears this label proudly, while Harley sports a rather smeared dash of lipstick for the majority of the journey.
This is the pain she has suffered during her journey, the battle scar that reminds us it’s tough to be different, but that it’s in the end pretty cool to be different as well. After all, she’s hitched with the Joker, who’s one hell of an attractive mate. She must be doing something right.
There is a strong undercurrent in the film about the desire to be accepted. Jared Leto’s Joker is a strong departure from Heath Ledgers much lauded, but rather one dimensional performance. In an interview with Den of Geek Leto explained “You see, while I was on set I wanted to be inside his skin the whole time, on camera and off, and so I let the Joker guide me. I’m sure you’ve read about the gifts I sent the cast members, but I didn’t send them, it was the Joker. It all started off rather innocently, of course. I’d leave a used condom outside Margot Robbie’s door, or a horse’s head in Will Smiths bed. Will got the worst of it, really. But as the gifts got more violent, and the reactions more uncomfortable (the newborn might have been a step too far), I could feel myself approaching a revelation with the character, a sudden understanding of who he was. Really, truly, he wanted to be quirky, to be funny, to make the other actors laugh. These gifts were just the Joker trying to get people to love him.”
We are all Jokers. We are all desperate to feel loved. I went to see this film with a girl, with the girl, and by the time the credits rolled, my whole life had changed. That’s what this film does. It cuts right to the heart of the troubles everyone is facing, everyone. It tells us it’s okay to wait until you find your Harley, you don’t have to settle for anything less. We all need to find that one special person, the one who can see us at our worst, and who, after a quick bit of torture, can love us at our worst too. We need that person we can look up to, from behind, and get one hell of a view.
People argue that their relationship is an abusive one. They suggest the Joker is possessive, cruel, and violent. Maybe that’s the case in other interpretations, but in the Suicide Squad it couldn’t be further from the truth. Jared Leto’s Joker is charming, mysterious, caring, and attractive to all women.
Like Fifty Shades of Grey’s male lead Christian Grey, the Joker is so attractive to women because of his confidence, and his power. E.L James, author of the Fifty Shades Saga, had this to say about the Suicide Squad when interviewed by ‘Lady Bumps: A magazine About Women, For Women, By Men’. “When I first let my gaze drift idly onto the Jokers lean, well defined, angular cheeks, I felt myself blush. I must have been the colour of the communist manifesto by the time the film had finished. It was a relationship about control, about passion, and just like my sweet, perfect, delicious Christian Grey, the Joker makes girls feel great about themselves. There’s nothing uncomfortable about the relationship if you ask me, I mean, a little coercion is all fair game. Christian had his legally binding contract, which Anastasia Steele agreed to and so it’s completely fine, and the Joker had his electroshock torture, which I think all us ladies know is hot! We have to listen to our tiny inner goddesses sometimes, and my inner goddess was doing the monster mash. That means she liked it… Or something.”
I agree with E.L James that the relationship is a positive one. I think its very easy to see two damaged people loving each other, and to call it hate. It’s not hate. It’s a different kind of love, but it’s love all the same.
This movie is for those of us who are different, for those of us who look into the Jokers eyes and see our own reflection grinning back. We understand what it is to be lonely, to be desperate for other people’s love yet unable to show it. We need a film like this, a film that lets us show our love how we want to, through violence and aggression.
I saw the film seven times before it left the cinema. Six of those times were alone. I’m now waiting until I find my Harley. She’s out there. My girlfriend, ex, is out of the picture. She didn’t understand. I guess she wasn’t damaged enough. But Suicide Squad teaches many lessons about love. I have learnt them all. Harley Quinn didn’t enter the world as her perfect, beautiful self. She was Harleen Quinzel, a psychiatrist, a woman without a smile. But eventually, after a while, the Joker made her who she was always destined to be. The Joker made her his.
My ex-girlfriend wasn’t quite the Harley I wanted her to be. But she’s a new person now. I realise that all it takes is a little bit of patience. We’re working on it, this girl and I. Eventually, one day, I truly believe we will find that elusive dream; true love. I’ll just have to damage her a little first.
[P.S, this is a joke. I have been informed its a deeply unfunny one, but it’s a joke nevertheless. It’s meant to get a bit creepy at the end there, but its still a joke. All people referenced bare no resemblance to anyone living or dead. Because obviously its a joke. I mean, “We need a film like this, a film that lets us show our love how we want to, through violence and aggression.” I’m genuinely offended anyone could think that I honestly believe that. But there ya go.]