Harley Quinn and Joker Co-dependence - Suicide Squad (2016)

Updated: Jan 12

Suicide Squad 2016 tries to explore the dynamics of an abusive relationship through the characterisations of Harleen Quinzel (Harley Quinn) and the Joker. However the storyline isn’t given sufficient attention which undermines the importance of the behaviour that results from the interaction between these two Batman characters.


The movie establishes Harley Quinn as an unbalanced and dangerous person through a scene between herself and a guard at Belle Reve prison. Subsequently, the movie provides a sequence of scenes supposedly showing the ‘beginnings’ of the Harley Quinn character.



Dr. Harleen Quinzel was Joker’s psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum. Through this interaction the Clown Prince was able to manipulate Harleen which led to him breaking out. Before breaking out of Arkham however, the Joker tortures Dr. Quinzel. As far as the characterisation of the Joker is concerned these few scenes demonstrate that he is calculating, manipulative and dangerous. This is juxtaposed with the doctors attempt to help him. In a small amount of screen time a complex character dynamic has been established highlighting the beginnings of a co-dependent relationship. It is also worth mentioning that this plays into the overarching theme of the movie of the relation between good and bad.



The scene immediately after Joker breaking out of Arkham demonstrates the solidification of a co-dependent relationship. Firstly the Joker gifts Harley to another man conveying the ownership Joker feels over Harley and her willingness to be used. Subsequently the Clown Prince strikes a menacing tone when Harley is rejected. This fatal twist would suggest that Joker if not Harley is aware that this possessive behaviour fuels his aggression. Clearly the theme of co-dependency is an intricate one in which one party enables destructive behaviour of the other but it should not have been relegated to a footnote.


The relationship only gets a few more scenes throughout the 2 hour long movie but there are two scenes in particular that serve to furthering the dynamic between the two characters. The first scene highlights the uncaring and manipulative behaviour that Joker exhibits toward Harley while she is clearly upset that she gave him so much yet he walked away so easily. The second scene adds another layer that furthers the idea that the Joker is as dependant on Harley as she is on him. After manipulating Harley to sacrifice her life the Joker saves her. This simple scene demonstrates the control the Joker exerts over Harley but that he doesn’t want to relinquish the power over her.



I lack the qualifications and knowledge needed to provide a proper examination of the relationship. However this bare bones analysis shows the complex nature of the relationship. Co-dependence is an issue prevalent in society which deserves exploring. Yet the storyline has been relegated to the role of a sub-plot. There is an important social theme that needs to be explored and had the theme of co-dependence been explored may have yielded results like Joker (2019).

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