DC Comics Needs to Fix Harley Quinn for our Daughters

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Since her introduction in Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn's popularity has continued to skyrocket into cult status. What happens when that popularity spills over into the minds of young girls?

Known as the bubbly and villainous sidekick to the Joker, Harley Quinn was a seemingly harmless character back in the 90's when Bruce Timm's Batman: The Animated Series was on every television after school. But back then it was clear she was a villain so it was easier to cope with. Nobody would want their child to aspire to be a villain. Eventually her likeness made the jump from cartoon to comic book.

Which is where DC began fleshing out her background and her popularity began to grow.

A background filled with psychological torment as she is known to be the subject of abuse by the man she is insanely infatuated with: the Joker. This twisted love story is the subject of the current iteration of Harley that many audiences saw on the big screen in SUICIDE SQUAD.

There are comic book parents and there are pop-culture parents. I would venture to guess 85-90% of comic book parents would never allow their young daugher's to dress up as Harley Quinn. At least not the "Daddy's Lil Monster" Harley as portrayed in the movie. The pop-culture parents probably don't know the difference, other than their daughter is asking to dress up like a character they saw on TV from the commercials. Most of my comic book friends typically cringe when we see a young girl wearing Harley merchandise.

I realize that Halloween is all about dressing in costumes and pretending to be someone your not in order to get a piece of candy. I fully endorse the holiday. It's one of my favorites. And Halloween isn't necessarily about dressing your child up to scare people anymore either. 

Ghosts and goblins are out. Fantasy and comic books are in.

You'd be hard pressed to find more teens dressed as zombies than you will of younger children dressed as their favorite princess or superhero. Halloween has evolved to fit our culture (ie: don't expect to see many clowns this year).

With so many girls wanting to portray themselves as a mentally and physically abused Harley Quinn who suffers from a severe case of stockholm syndrome, I would beg parents to take caution. Encouraging an 8-12 year old girl to feel any sort of connection to the character is dangerous. I'd even go so far as to say it's careless.

But there are plenty of parents allowing it to happen. I saw at least 4 "Daddy's Little Monster" Harley's today at my daughter's elementary school parade.

But wait! Isn't DC including Harley Quinn in their DC Super Hero Girls line of merchandise? Isn't she pitched as a fun, yet mildly violent, jokester who is a hero in their animated webisodes? The answer to both is 'YES'. And there are children between 5-8 who are watching these shows, buying the dolls and pretending to be Harley Quinn.

What kind of character is DC impressing on our young daughters? Hopefully a character that can inspire them to be good people and accomplish great things. And because of that, I would like to see DC make some fundamental changes to Harley Quinn's story if they are going to continue marketing her to young girls. It's not uncommon for villains to gain so much popularity that they receive 'hero' status in order for the publisher to sell more merchandise.

When our daughters grow up and look to follow Harley's story, they're going to see the dark world of domestic violence and abuse. And they might be willing to make excuses for its horrors because Harley Quinn, their favorite character, actually enjoys it. Until DC makes some changes to Harley that portrays her as a less violent, less victimized 'hero', perhaps we should steer our daughters to a more hopeful and brighter portrayal of women. Instead of a character who has succumbed to the experiences of a sadistic, serial abuser, you could have your daughter dress up as someone who has risen above it all and encourages girls to be strong and seek out hope and optimism in their lives.

Supergirl and Wonder Woman are a good place to start.