In an article about Harley Quinn, an illustration of a couch surrounded by Harley Quinn's weapons
Illustration by Olivia Bermingham, Massachusetts College of Art and Design
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In an article about Harley Quinn, an illustration of a couch surrounded by Harley Quinn's weapons
Illustration by Olivia Bermingham, Massachusetts College of Art and Design

While Batman is often depicted as a protagonist, HBO’s animated series offers a different take on the caped crusader and his enemies.

HBO’s recent animated series “Harley Quinn” takes place in another DC multiverse and answers the question — “What if Harley Quinn and the Joker were the heroes?” While poking fun at the selfishness of Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), the series shows Harley Quinn’s road to independence after her breakup with Joker. By the end, both Harley and Joker complete their evolution from villainy to heroism.

Before Harley Quinn became the Joker’s girlfriend and sidekick, she was a brilliant psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum named Dr. Harleen Quinzel. After Harley breaks up with Joker, she and Poison Ivy become best friends and later girlfriends. At first, Harley’s goal was to become the most feared criminal in Gotham City. However, when Poison Ivy attempts to turn the city into her personal Eden in Season 3, Episode 9, Harley stops her and sacrifices herself to save everyone.

‘Harley Quinn’ Shows the True H...
‘Harley Quinn’ Shows the True Heroes and Villains of Gotham

In the next episode, Harley admits to Poison Ivy that the reason she supported Ivy’s goal was because she was afraid to lose her, as she had never objected to the schemes of her former partners. In response, Poison Ivy says, “You evolved, you wanna help people, you’re not a villain anymore.” The episode appropriately concludes with Harley teaming up with Batgirl, Nightwing and Robin to fight crime.

Joker, on the other hand, commits crimes and kills people during his time with Harley. After they break up he marries a nurse and becomes the stepfather to her children. In Season 3, Episode 6, Joker is elected as the new mayor of Gotham. In his new role, he implements education and prison reform programs and works hard to ensure that citizens have universal healthcare and free mental health services. By the end of the series, both Joker and Harley move on from their breakup and enter into healthy relationships with other people. Above all, however, they evolve into better people by abandoning their criminal lifestyles.

The show also illustrates the darker side of Bruce Wayne and presents him as the real villain of Gotham. Season 3, Episode 8 delves into an exploration of his inner demons and the development of his depression and abandonment issues. Even though he fights crime as Batman, he sends criminals to Arkham Asylum and expects them to rehabilitate on their own, which does not solve the city’s problems with crime. Furthermore, despite being a billionaire and owning half of Gotham, he never uses his money to help the citizens with real issues such as food and housing insecurity. According to Forbes, “Wayne Enterprises has an approximate net income of $1.45 billion.” Therefore, if Wayne wanted to help the citizens of Gotham, he could certainly afford to start a charity organization or provide proper rehabilitation programs to patients in Arkham.

Instead, Wayne confesses that he fights crime just to cope with his childhood trauma. In Season 3, Episode 8, Harley and her crew enter Bruce’s mind and learn that he is suffering from a repressed memory of his parents’ murder. Harley uses her psychiatric training to help Bruce and says, “You can’t undo your trauma, you have to work through it; it’s hard and it’s scary, but it’s the best thing you’ll ever do.” Wayne ignores her advice, and instead of trying to overcome his trauma, he attempts to revive his parents, resulting in a zombie apocalypse. During the chaos, the undead turn the citizens into trees, and Harley and the bat crew must save Gotham. At the same time, Wayne fails to realize what he has done, as he only cares about spending time with his deceased parents.

In the next episode, Joker and the city police arrest Wayne for tax evasion. The revelation proves that Wayne is both corrupt and a hypocrite for having broken the law. Joker arrests Wayne and consequently aids Gotham by locking up one more wealthy person who abused their power to evade arrest. Whereas Wayne focuses on crime rather than the real issues facing people in Gotham, Joker improves Gotham by getting rid of crime and funding essential programs.

As a fan of Batman, I have always enjoyed watching the protagonist fight crime. But as I thought more about it, I came to realize that he never uses his money to help fund projects that could help the city. Furthermore, he arrests criminals, but fails to address Gotham’s more insidious problems, such as mobsters and drug dealers. So maybe Gotham is better off without Batman. After all, the city needs true heroes, not billionaires in capes.

Writer Profile

Caroline Ocampo

The University of Texas at Arlington
Creative Writing

I am a down to earth person that loves reading books, spending time with my family and nieces. I also love animals and have a 1-year-old pug named Coco who I love playing with. I am a history major who loves reading about how people lived back then and using my research skills to write an informative article about past events.

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