Harley Quinn and the Australian Domestic Violence Act of 1992

Harley Quinn and the Australian Domestic Violence Act of 1992

Why America’s romanticism of Stockholm Syndrome may put Australia back twenty years


DC comics’ Harley Quinn isn’t a new concept, and neither are articles pointing out her obnoxious inclusion. If you’re like one of the many millennials recently, you would have seen the new Suicide Squad blockbuster. But as Australians sitting in a movie theatre in late 2016, is there something we’re missing?

What happens when we go from watching characters undergo severe PTSD and Stockholm Syndrome in a dark cinema room, to then return to “Violence Against Women: Australia Says No” campaigns on the bus-ride home?

In the movie, Dr Harleen Frances Quinzell was a psychiatrist to the famously psychopathic “Joker” – whose relationship gradually blossomed into a romance; with Dr Quinzell being tortured, tested, and titillated under her undying love for this joker. In short, this is the classic Bonnie and Clyde – love of danger – relationship as the backstory of this good girl turned bad. A good idea to illustrate in its 1992 conception.

Catapulting to the real world of Australia circa 2015, a real super hero of Rosie Batty fights for Domestic Violence incidences and orders to be brought to the forefront of the police system.  With her Australian of the Year role, publicity and police regulation methods are carried out nationwide to increase reporting of domestically violent incidents. This proved successful with a 20% increase in reports.

High profile incidences still occurred, including the public shooting at a Gold Coast McDonalds – of a mother shot by her ex-husband with multiple breaches of a Domestic Violence Order. It was deemed as barbaric, gruesome, and an incident that saddened locals and terrified anyone in the same position. Suffering with PTSD and psychological disorders is not a fun experience. Quite the opposite, enough to inherit the verb “suffering”.

Yet, popular culture seems to have a different – and rather sexualised – view, looking at the latest Suicide Squad release. Mid-way through the film, Quinn (and others) seems to relive flashbacks to torturous events under the spell of the Joker. But don’t worry boys, her harrowing events don’t seem to halt her wide-angle panty shots.  I could overhear a sigh of relief every time a “shut up” was directed at Quinn. Or, I know at least I did.

Excuse the “well, in the comics!” inclusion – but the film did a great job of adapting the characters and plot from the original. Visuals were innovative, and costuming designs classic.

The way the characters are portrayed is also not a surprise from Hollywood writers (Donald Trump being a good muse). If you’ve walked in Las Vegas – or Surfers Paradise for that matter – it’s old-hat to see women utilised as nothing other than a sex toy. I’m not expecting DC to change their plot or character development in any way. This article’s purpose – I’d hope – is to just get you thinking: what is the impact of pop culture reapplying PTSD with this sexy label? A label which looks more like a worn heart-smart sticker on the back of some Tim-Tams.

Have we outgrown Harley? I’d hope in the portrayal by the new Suicide Squad, we might have.