When Deadpool came out in theaters not long ago, we all held our collective breaths hoping that he would actually be portrayed as pansexual. Despite the character’s pansexuality in the comics, it seemed doubtful that the movie would take this route. While there was some queer coding and some hinting in the movie, Deadpool was not shown to be pansexual, though the movie left us with some hope that his sexuality would be explored more in the next film.
Now, however, I am in a similar situation when it comes to the Suicide Squad movie and Harley Quinn.
After years of being a massive Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy shipper, all I wanted was confirmation of the characters’ relationship and sexuality, and in June of last year I finally got it. Harley Quinn comic creators Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner essentially confirmed the characters’ relationship in a series of tweets.
The two characters have long been implied to have at least a sexual relationship, if not a romantic one as well, but it wasn’t until these tweets that anything was confirmed. So now both Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are canonically bisexual and I am hoping that Harley will be portrayed as such in the upcoming Suicide Squad film.
We have a similar issue already in the movie, though, as we did with the Deadpool movie. Deadpool’s main relationship was with a woman whom he really loves, so there was less room to openly show Deadpool’s pansexuality. Most of Harley Quinn’s character is defined by the Joker. While Harley has certainly become her own person and her own character, she became who she is because of the Joker and continues to have an on-again off-again abusive relationship with him. In Suicide Squad, Harley starts to develop a relationship with Deadshot, which shows her moving on from the Joker. So for the most part, other than her relationship with Poison Ivy, who will not be in the Suicide Squad movie, all of Harley’s relationships have been with men. Obviously, Poison Ivy will not be in this movie because she is not part of the Suicide Squad in the comics. But then, neither is the Joker—well, he is not on the team, but he does occasionally appear. In the movie, it looks like he’ll be one of our villains, but I still feel like the promotions for the movie are focusing far too much on the Joker. If the movie can include characters from the comics that aren’t necessarily on the Suicide Squad team, why can’t Poison Ivy make an appearance, maybe saving Harley from the Joker and wrapping her up in a loving embrace? Poison Ivy really helps Harley become her own person. It would make sense for her to at least be in a flashback.
Which leads to the bigger issue here. While I am a huge Harley/Ivy shipper, their relationship in the comics was at least kind of born out of the male gaze. Writers and artists like drawing Harley and Ivy in compromising sexual-ish positions, but they still make the point to a presumably male audience that Harley and Ivy are really just straight girls here being sexual for their pleasure. This issue could be redeemed if the movies (and the comics) made Harley (and Ivy) genuinely queer characters, and the Suicide Squad movie is the perfect place to do that.
While this movie will more than likely focus on Harley’s relationship with the Joker, that doesn’t mean we couldn’t see her at least flirt with the other female characters on her team. Even having Harley specifically mention that she is bisexual would be nice. There are things the movie can do that wouldn’t be exploitative that could show Harley as the canonically bisexual character that she actually is.
Showing Harley Quinn as queer would not only ameliorate the problems with DC Comics exploiting her sexuality for the male gaze, but honestly, more than anything, we need a queer Harley Quinn right now. As Saika recently pointed out, the “bury your gays” trope has been in full force this year, particularly in regards to queer women, eight of whom were killed off in various fandoms this year. Having Harley present as a queer character in the movies would certainly give us at least one queer woman we know would survive. Harley Quinn may go through a lot with the Joker, but she is a fan favorite who always survives one way or another. On top of this, neither DC Comics nor Marvel Comics movie franchises have any queer representation thus far, and it would definitely give DC Comics a diversity boost over Marvel.
As a queer woman who has long identified with Harley Quinn, it would mean a lot to me to see her portrayed as queer in the movie. This is Harley’s first appearance on screen and the movie’s success could change how many people view her character. We’ve only been given some crumbs of fan service before this, so this is a chance for real representation.