Apr 19, 2009

Finally something to really write about, and how fitting.

As you should know by now I am a huge Harley Quinn fan, as well as pretty obsessed with anything Batman-related. If you have read the "Harley and Ivy" mini-series by Paul Dini you will see that Harley is a very sexual character, especially out of costume. Her and Ivy use the fact that they are hot women to their advantage- but the difference is that it is in a way that doesn't objectify them as much as it empowers them.

Harley has also always been a very stereotypical "dumb blonde" despite the fact that before her villain days she was a Doctor. She is extremely co-dependent, which is part of what makes her so great as a comic relief character. Although she kicks ass, she is still this happy, bouncy little gymnast that has very relatable human flaws, and more often than not she just forgets something and messes everything up.

I had mixed feelings about the new Arkham Asylum game trailer because Harley Quinn became this highly dangerous force-to-be-reckoned-with character, which added a new level of power that she's never really been given, but it also makes her kind of scary. Very dark, very much like the distinction between the comic book/Heath Ledger Joker and the cartoon/Jack Nicholson Joker. But I think that it takes away from a lot of her essential "Harleyness", so to speak.

Although It was interesting to see a darker side of her because I always thought that her character would never fit into a more Nolan-esque Batman world. So its nice to see her adapted to fit into the game setting and given such an important role, when she could have easily been overlooked and probably not missed by most.

I did feel extremely uncomfortable while watching the trailer though. My exact words were "Thats pretty awesome and yet sufficiently creepy at the same time." I couldn't figure it out at first, but it was mostly because of the costume. I disliked it immediately, from the second she said "hiya b-man, how d'you like my new uniform?" in her little squeaky voice. There were two main reasons, the most obvious being that she is oversexualized, and also my initial reaction that it wasn't the Harley I knew and loved.

So although it's not the fact that she is objectified that bothered me first and foremost, I do agree with Less Lee Moore from Toronto Thumbs that the oversexualization of female characters is a huge problem in the gaming world. It definitely evokes a lot of misogynistic and purely sexual commentary that detracts from the characterization. Although I'm not sure if I could say that "portraying her as a sex symbol is detrimental to the essence [of the] character," because in my own mind I see her as a sex symbol already as both the innocent little pigtailed blonde and the spandexed mischief maker.

I don't want to say they made her a "sex symbol" as much as I want to say a "sexual object", because I feel like the term "sex symbol" is empowering whereas the latter is extremely negative and embodies more of the kind of detriment that I think Less was talking about. I can say that while I was absolutely floored by the raw power of her soliloquy, even I was totally distracted by her perfect digital cleavage and butt cheeks that were hanging out. And this is even considering that I love this impromptu french maid/oktoberfest wench Harley Quinn doll's costume so much that I have considered having one made for myself.

I just kept trying to make sense of the costume in my head; "how does this fit into the joker/playing card theme?", "Where are the signature three diamonds?", "How is this an adaptation of her other costume?", "Which parts of this did they get from her costume?". I couldn't come up with anything. It just aesthetically made no sense, except to add shock value and provide some "tits" to the part of the game playing population that can't take the time out to go find some real ones, which is a pretty big reason why most people played Tomb Raider in the beginning. Its really sad that a female character, more often than not, has to be a sexual object to be a likable video game character.

There also was a whole other level to the costume, aside from its overtly sexual nature, that really bothered me. It was especially weird seeing her in a costume that shows that much skin as well as her hair! Going back to my initial comment about the sufficient creepiness of the trailer... Usually the main distinction between her villain side and her human side is when we can actually see her hair. In costume her hair is always covered by a jester hat, there has even been some cases where she has shown more skin but the hat and mask always remains.

When all of her innate human characteristics that make her so relatable are gone, but her physically human characteristics and the "Harleen Quinzel" part of her is still completely there and visible... It is quite a stark realization of who she truly may be. It is one thing to make her darker and creepier as a villain, but makes it even creepier to feel as though the Harley I know and love might really be this dark, creepy, angry, destructive character.

Although it just hit me right now that I started thinking about it... they did emphasize her "real name" in the trailer, and the costume was sort of "nursey", with the nurses hat and the name tag. Especially also now thinking about it more in relation to the first trailer and the idea that the patients were taking over the hospital. The costume could have that sort of a relevance if the premise of the game is about the seduction and her initial transformation and Joker's escape from Arkham Asylum after turning her into a villian.

In that case she would be very dark and probably wouldn't have a specific villain's costume just yet, which would explain the hair, the human-ness. Also the "new uniform" quote would obviously be a reference to the change from her traditional Doctor's uniform (when she was a normal, sane psychiatrist), into the crazed lunatic that sets all of the patients free to wreak havoc on gotham.

If that is the case there is still room for her to seem more human and submiss to him at least little bit after her power trip. Which actually makes things a lot more interesting, but also brings up some new points. Aside from the fact that she is still unnecessarily objectified, NOW she has essentially been demoted from a "doctor" to a "nurse". From a women in a pretty powerful position, to a sidekick. But then again the trailer shows her very much in control, which intrigues me. Maybe we have it all wrong and the nurses uniform is a power-parody?

I think either way I choose to look at it, this is definitely not the Harley I know, although I'm not totally giving up on them yet. Especially with Paul Dini behind the scenes, I trust him enough to know what he's doing since he was the man behind bringing the original Harley Quinn to the screen. I would love a video game based on a Harley origin-story, and I would like to wait and see what else the game has in store before I completely condemn it. There are certain parts of the new side of this character that I am definitely interested in seeing and how they decide to play it out.

Original Post from Xanga: http://the-harley-quinn-experiance.xanga.com/699378758/
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