miss-rogue92:

Harley Quinn Animated Series First Look (Kaley Cuoco) – NYCC 2018

If Harley keeps this look in the series as constant, I may finally have a reason to give a shit about DC content again. If it leads to Harley finally returning after so many years of “Harley,” this may even be me coming back to DC.

I don’t talk about it much, but I had dropped everything DC save anything featuring actual Harley since the first reboot. So, since 2011. Only other exception being the WW film to support content starring female superheroes.

I like what I see so far here though. Very much a Daria feel from it.

Analysis: Harley Quinn, Polaris, men in their lives

I don’t talk about Harley Quinn as much on here as other topics. My main view is that she was my favorite character of DC comics, the “rebirth” ruined her by throwing away her entire harlequin character theme to make her more or less “clown girl,” and any popularity we see for her today is much less than she could’ve had if DC hadn’t thrown away her identity.

Right now, I’m bringing this up not for Harley Quinn, but for Polaris and the way @marvelentertainment seems to see and treat her.

Harley Quinn

Despite my complaints, my reasons for those complaints, and what I’m certain would be happening if DC did things right by Harley Quinn, there’s still an important truth that must be acknowledged: Harley Quinn is currently incredibly popular. She could be more popular if done right, and much of her popularity right now is due to DC shoving their “reimagining” of Harley down everyone’s throats, but it doesn’t change the end result.

So why is current “Harley Quinn” popular? People can cite a lot of different things. People can disagree, or bring up a huge mishmash of elements. However, there’s one specific aspect of her newfound popularity that applies here: the popularity of “Harley Quinn” is not because of Harley’s connection to Joker but in spite of it.

Harley Quinn was created to be Joker’s henchgirl in the animated TV series. She became popular with her initial appearance and got recurring roles. This led to Harley getting fleshed out as a former psychiatrist that was seduced by Joker’s nature and ultimately became a domestic abuse survivor. Essentially, that was her origins – to be “beneath” Joker, to be his victim that was once a smart professional woman.

Fast forward. As Harley grew as a character, her horizons expanded. She developed a lesbian relationship with Poison Ivy. She had zany adventures in her own solo series (which I read, and was great up until somewhere around issue 25 or so). That was, I believe, the height of her popularity pre-”rebirth”. History with Joker came up, but amazingly, it was stories not involving Joker that got pursued the most when she was at her best.

Likewise, the popularity of the current “Harley Quinn” is never tied to stories involving Joker. One of the most popular relationships “Harley” has had in recent years is with Power Girl, to the point where a whole set of comics was made focused on it. When the Suicide Squad film came out, most of the tweets I saw concerning that version of “Harley Quinn” were about how great she was in the film when Joker wasn’t part of the story. And, as WB plans to make a Joker solo film, I see TONS of complaints from people about how shitty such a film would be vs wanting a Gotham Sirens sort of film featuring Harley.

Long story short? Harley Quinn was created to be “beneath” Joker, but when she finally got real, deliberate focus on herself as her own character, people came to love her more than Joker. The guy she’s supposedly “beneath.”

Polaris

Here’s the connection for Polaris: Havok.

I’m going to be fair to Havok, for Havok fans. He’s not a villain like Joker. When he’s actually written respectfully, he’s not an abusive shitheel.

However, how he is when written well does not change how their relationship was written for decades and how it always gets written when writers at Marvel try to bring it back.

Polaris was created as the daughter of Magneto who wants to be her own woman. The late 60s did still have sexism which trickled into some of her treatment, but Lorna was quite independent and more feminist than your average female character at the time.

Over time, and especially in the 70s and 80s, the idea of Lorna as “beneath” Havok (and several other characters) got pushed more and more at Marvel. Unlike DC with Harley Quinn, she wasn’t created with that toxic relationship. The toxic relationship was forced on her.

Their relationship is always Lorna acting as a supporting character for Havok’s stories.

Sometimes she’s written crying on his shoulder and blaming herself for crimes she didn’t commit, for no reason other than for the “big strong man” Havok to look good “comforting” her.

Sometimes she’s being tortured by the villain so we can see Havok’s “suffering” at hearing her in pain.

Sometimes, for no damn reason whatsoever, any concept of agency for herself is thrown out so she can spout about “what Alex would do.”

Sometimes, her entire purpose on a book is exclusively to be a reminder of “how wonderful the great and glorious Havok” is supposed to be, through things like having her spout “this isn’t you” or having her memories used to “restore” him after a multiple-issue story with him at the center.

And sometimes, big moments for her – like when she gets her origin story, or when she leads her own team for the first time – just have to have Havok shoved into them just so he can benefit.

Long story short: Marvel’s attitude toward Lorna is that she’s “beneath” Havok, and they keep going back to that over and over and over again.

They keep giving Havok opportunities they refuse to give Polaris. They keep forcing him into her stories and giving him a big voice, often even letting him hijack her whole damn story.

Marvel keeps refusing to let Lorna be her own character with her own amazing stories told, new relationships developed, her own spotlight that has nothing to do with this toxic relationship she’s had with this specific man that executives and editors and writers working at Marvel can’t stop nutting over.

And you know what?

Harley’s Success Could Be Polaris’

Harley Quinn is popular and succeeding right now in spite of setbacks like throwing out her harlequin theme. As said, “Harley Quinn’s” popularity comes because Joker isn’t forced into her stories and dragging her down. In fact, during the whole “rebirth,” the initial Suicide Squad stories where the Joker connection was played up most are actually the least liked.

The same applies with Lorna. Aside from some Austen moments, the great majority of full-bore Polaris fans do not fan over her because of Havok. They’re fans because of her mental health difficulties. Or her support of mutant rights issues when treated well. Or her history and subsequent development as a survivor of the Genoshan genocide. Or her place within the broad Magnus family, or so many other things.

Polaris is an awesome badass with many layers of complexity and massive amounts of untapped potential. What’s happening with Harley Quinn demonstrates that even if Lorna was a pale imitation of her full self, she would still be immensely popular as long as Marvel stopped dicking her over by forcing Havok on her and treating her like she’s “beneath” him.

Hell, we see that right now with Gifted. That version of Polaris isn’t really the full, true Lorna, it’s just one aspect and interpretation of her. It’s more faithful than what Marvel tends to do with her, but it’s still not fully her. And in spite of that, she’s the most popular character on the show. She’s more popular than Havok was in the films.

Lorna couldn’t just be as successful as Harley, she could be more successful. She has decades of history to draw from. Decades of fandom. Immense untapped potential. And a real, proper focus on her would be something more than what DC does for Harley, giving Lorna an edge.

The only thing standing in Lorna’s way is old, awful, entrenched fanboy biases against her at Marvel. Any argument made by anyone at Marvel along the lines of “she’s not popular enough” or “she’s not enough of a character” or anything like that is just people at Marvel trying to justify their bias.

Harley Quinn started out as a minor supporting character for Joker’s stories and look where she is now. Lorna didn’t even start out as that. She started as her own character and got turned into a minor supporting character for Havok’s stories.

If DC can do great things for Harley, then Marvel sure as hell can do them for Lorna too. They just have to care and stop making excuses.

Companies using female creators as shields for poor female character treatment

I don’t do a lot of ranting about this on Tumblr, but I’ve done it on Twitter. There are a LOT of situations where a female character is treated poorly or radically changed that annoy me lately, but and I notice a trend: it’s treated as suddenly acceptable the instant a woman is made into one of the most prominent creators involved in the project.

For the supposed Tomb Raider “reboot,” its version of “Lara Croft” was rightfully panned as inappropriate to who Lara Croft is as a character… until Crystal Dynamics revealed and emphasized the fact they had Rhianna Pratchett writing the script. And as soon as Rhianna Pratchett started really pushing that treatment of her as somehow good and a step above. Special note: Rhianna Pratchett being the script writer was announced and turned into a big news story immediately after sites jumped on a producer’s remarks about “Lara” getting nearly raped and how it makes the player supposedly want to protect her.

Likewise, with Harley Quinn, throwing away her entire harlequin theme as a character and turning her into a female Joker knockoff was rightfully panned when it was Adam Glass. Then, as soon as Amanda Conner got involved, everyone started building it up and promoting what DC was doing to Harley Quinn as The Best Thing Ever.

In neither case was the intent and plan actually something spearheaded by the prominent women attached to them. The “Tomb Raider” “reboot” was done, with its plan for a beaten down and traumatized Lara Croft as a way to throw away the heroic badass Lara Croft, entirely because a male exec at Crystal Dynamics saw the popularity of Nolan’s Batman films and wanted to force that concept on Lara Croft. Throwing away Harley Quinn’s entire theme as a character, what is to her what bats are to Batman, came because a male exec at DC Comics saw the popularity of Arkham Asylum’s costume change for Harley and thought that meant Harley needed to have her costume changed everywhere.

It is in much the same way as what happened to Barbara Gordon. A male editor decided Batgirl needed to be tossed aside and her crippling via Killing Joke was a way to do it while promoting the men. Everything that happened with Oracle wasn’t planned, it was women salvaging a character that a man had no respect for.

In essence, what we have is female creators used as a smoke screen for poor decisions made by men. Ideas that would garner massive criticism and complaints with a man at the helm suddenly get praise and accolades with a woman placed front and center. The success or failure of an idea forced on a character by a man also becomes the duty of a woman; if it fails, the blame can be pinned on her instead of the real problem that was forced on her.

This situation forces female creators to have to do things that are good for their careers at the expense of the female characters they’re working on. It forces them to convince people, including themselves, that what they’re doing is a good thing. It seems like a “when you have lemons, make lemonade” scenario, but it’s really not.

The great work done with Oracle as a result of Barbara Gordon’s poor treatment via Killing Joke is constantly used as a reason for why Barbara Gordon shouldn’t be Batgirl again. There were objectively a lot of great things that happened with Barbara’s development and character as Oracle, and she added meaningful disabled diversity… but it comes at the cost of trying to deny Barbara the chance to be Batgirl.

Great work done by women making good things out of a bad situation is weaponized as an excuse to continue reinforcing the original bad idea, and deny any and every possibility of setting things right.

“Barbara Gordon can’t be Batgirl again, you’re robbing the world of an important disabled character if you do that!”

“Lara Croft can’t be a badass heroic icon again, you’re undoing progress toward video games in general having more realistic female characters!”

“Harley Quinn can’t have her harlequin theme back, you’re taking away her whole troupe and team-up storylines with other characters!”

And so on, and so forth, as if a team of builders doing the best they can with a horrendous foundation somehow makes the foundation good.

What Crystal Dynamics is calling “Lara Croft” right now could have been an entirely brand new character for a new IP. She could’ve had a long line of successes in her own right, and eventually had a crossover game with the actual Lara Croft.

Harley Quinn could’ve had a troupe and team-up storylines that kept her harlequin theme intact, and even built upon them more. Instead of looking like a female Joker knockoff, there could’ve been a variation on the jester concept.

None of this is in a vacuum. Without putting any thought into it, the Tomb Raider “reboot” might look like the best thing to ever happen to Lara Croft, and Harley Quinn losing her jester theme may appear like the start of her breakthrough. It only looks that way because these companies are pulling out all the stops into making people accept a terrible direction, heavily promoting it while making women responsible for its success or failure.

But the truth is, what we see is much less than what could have been, and it comes at the cost of lost opportunities elsewhere.

When it comes to Tomb Raider, one of my favorite examples of just how wrong the “reboot” is comes from Resident Evil 4. The director, Shinji Mikami, had all these ideas ranging from psychological horror to supernatural horror. He eventually realized those ideas had absolutely no bearing on Resident Evil and turned it into an entirely new franchise: Devil May Cry. Devil May Cry became a huge success, resulted in the creation of brand new character Dante as a major respected gaming protagonist, and Resident Evil 4 still became a huge breakout game that revived the franchise. Crystal Dynamics celebrated the “Tomb Raider” “reboot” reaching 3 million sales worldwide in a month, yet Resident Evil became so successful that Capcom considered 5 million sales for Resident Evil 6 in the same time span to be bad sales.

Just because something looks better than it was doesn’t mean it’s better than what it could have been. Confirmation bias is a hell of a drug, and it narrows the mind to potential alternatives.

Lastly, notice that the exact same things rightfully continue to be criticized when it’s a male character. Snyder’s idea of Superman in Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice has been constantly torn to shreds. “Dante” from DmC also kept getting complaints for radically changing his entire nature and theme as a character. People have no problem spotting what’s wrong and calling it out when it’s a male character. They have a problem doing it when it’s a female character with a prominent female creator involved.

I really hope that some day, we’ll see Lara Croft and Harley Quinn again. I hope people start to see through this form of corporate trickery toward making people accept bad ideas. I hope corporate stops using women as shields against having their bad ideas taken to task and undone.

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