🔍 BEHIND THE MASK 🔎 The Love Between Joker & Harley Quinn Edition

Welcome to this week’s discussion of BEHIND THE MASK, in which we welcome our resident armchair psychologists to ponder and muse, our literary detectives to theorize and question.

We invite you all to pull back and discover what’s a-brewing behind the tandem-mask of Harley & The Joker.

WARNING: Exploration of this relationship may bring up topics that are uncomfortable for some readers. If themes of abuse or dependency are sensitive subjects for you, please proceed with caution.

On the day where we celebrate the most beautiful concepts and expressions of love, we’re putting under the metaphorical microscope the kooky kouple we hate to love, Harley & her Puddin’ Pops.

Let’s discuss the “who’s”, the “why’s”, the “what were they thinking’s”?
Let’s pull up a chair and dig a little deeper.


This week, we’re taking a closer look at our buddy ol’ pal, The Joker and his partner-in-crime Harley, through the lens of “How & Why We Love”:

:mag_right:What initially drew Dr. Harleen Quinzel into the The Joker’s world?

:mag_right: Do you think there’s hope for Harley to ever return to be ing Harleen Quinzel?

:mag_right: Do you think somewhere in that twisted heart The Joker actually loves Harley?

:mag_right: Will Harley ever truly part ways with The Joker?

:mag_right: If not, what do you think is in the books for Harley and her Puddin’?

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Share all your thoughts, theories, and additional questions below! :point_down:


:mag: The Joker is an expert in getting into people’s heads. His greatest ability is the power to occupy your mind, find what makes you tick and pluck at it. Even the mighty Batman has fallen prey to his wiles. As a psychiatrist, that quality itself is dangerously attractive. Harleen dedicated her life into understanding people, and no one gets people more than The Joker. He just uses that skill in the most horrible ways imaginable.

:mag: No, I don’t think Harley will ever return to Dr. Quinzel, and I don’t think she wants to. Another part of what attracted her to The Joker in the first place was how she was repressing herself, and how Joker encouraged her to let loose. A truly well adjusted Harley is one somewhere between dangerous psychotic and buttoned down doctor.

:mag: No. The Joker doesn’t love Harley. The only thing he loves is a joke, and his only audience is himself. All of his relationships are set-ups for punchlines down the road. The Joker took a psychiatrist and made her into a fawning, ditzy sycophant because it entertained him to do so.

:mag: I’d argue that Harley already has parted ways with The Joker. Sure, a sick part of her will always think of him, the way anyone ever thinks about exes from a particularly intense relationship. But at least since Batman: The Animated Series ended, she’s mostly been doing her own thing.


:mag: she always wanted to care which is why she became a psychiatrist. And joker manipulated her to think he needed care

:mag:Harleen Quinzel is just her legal name. Harley is who she is. An intelligent woman who just wants to have fun and no longer be under someone’s control.

:mag:No, Joker does not love Harley. He may have interest in her. But purely for personal again or enjoyment. Keeps her for the abuse

:mag: That all depends on the writers.
But I loved the Harley Quinn that left the abuse and started a new life.


“What initially drew Dr Harleen Quinzel into the Joker’s world?”

Celebrity and fame, and the allure of getting into someone’s head. In the original Mad Love book, Harleen admitted when warned to not think about writing a tell-All book about the inmates that there is an inherent glamor to the rogues gallery, and who’s more glamorous than the Joker? Also, from what I remember, with Harley’s past, her father was both physically and emotionally abusive, often prone to mind games. Part of why she got into psychology was to understand them and, in some dark part of herself, be able to do them herself.

The irony is that in a way, she approached him for the same reason he approached her. She just underestimated his capacity for manipulation and just found herself repeating the same mistakes.

“Do you think there’s hope for Harley to ever return to being Harleen?”

That assumes that there wasn’t a bit of Harley in her from the beginning, buried deep in her base desires. But even if she could repress that, her actions as Harley wouldn’t be forgotten. So…sadly, no, she’s stuck with Harley forever. But, Harley can and has gotten better. She can’t go back, but she can move forward in a more positive direction.

“Do you think somewhere in that twisted heart The Joker actually loves Harley?”

He’s certainly broken and twisted many, many people in the past, so why else would he keep coming back to her. So, yes, I’d say he does – however, that love is a sick, twisted, toxic sort of love, one that he views her more as his creation, his masterpiece of his genius and proof of his beliefs.

“Will Harley ever truly part ways with The Joker?”

I think it’s likely, considering where she is now. However, in comics things tend to revert to the status quo after a while; and in real life abusive relationships, the abused can take the abuser back, hoping, often in vain, that things will be different this time.

“What do you think is in the cards for Harley and her Puddin’?”

Relationship wise, I would have said that Harley would likely more fully pair up with Poison Ivy, but Heroes in Crisis might have put a kabosh to that, so I can’t say for certain. Joker’s real love in his life, the Batman, will always be out there, but who knows? If Harley doesn’t come back to him, maybe he’ll make a new Harley…


“All of his relationships are set-ups for punchlines down the road.”

What a beautiful nutshell.

Of The Joker’s many, many disorders and complexes, narcissism surely sits at the center. It’s so interesting to see how it shows up, wrapped in one complex after another.
Granted, in their own ways, both Harley and The Joker are narcissists, I’m sure we’re not neglecting to recognize that Dr. Harleen didn’t just fall in love with the intrigue surrounding the Joker’s mental state.

Surely it was intrigue that reeled her in.
And the idea of freedom to be must have been quite appealing for such a repressed individual.

But do you think that was really all it took? What else do you think might have played a pivotal role in Dr. Quinzel taking that fateful step on over to the other side of the table?


Bear in mind that I’ve not been following recent developments (Heroes in Crisis in particular, but just about anything since Flashpoint) involving Harley all that closely, so some of this may be invalid as of more recent characterization.

:mag_right:What initially drew Dr. Harleen Quinzel into the The Joker’s world?

I think the use of the phrase “The Joker’s world” is actually very apt. Pardon my slight divergence from the topic at hand to discuss the Joker: He has a compulsion to take everything around him and make it… like him, somehow. See: Emperor Joker and The Killing Joke. Oh, yeah, and a little story called Mad Love.

That brings me back to Harley. Now, I don’t think the Joker could have manipulated just anybody the way he did Harley. I think he probably, to some extent, exploited vulnerabilities that were already there. I’ll get back to this in a later question.

:mag_right: Do you think there’s hope for Harley to ever return to be ing Harleen Quinzel?

Doubtful, but not strictly impossible. Again, I’ll address this a little further down.

:mag_right: Do you think somewhere in that twisted heart The Joker actually loves Harley?

Of course not. The Joker doesn’t love anything but the Joker. He’s an abusive, utterly self-absorbed nightmare of a human being, and that’s that.

:mag_right: Will Harley ever truly part ways with The Joker?

Ah, here we are. I think what’s the most telling about Harley is not her relationship with the Joker, but her relationship with Ivy. She seems to have a need to sort of… latch onto people, I guess I’d say? She seems like someone who, while potentially smarter than she lets on, is generally looking for someone else to give her direction. While the Joker exploits that, Ivy seems to see Harley as something vulnerable that needs to be protected and nurtured - just like her plants.

The fact is that Harley is just not a very healthy person. Left to her own devices, she’ll seek out people she’s obsessed with. That’s often the Joker, which is obviously unhealthy. Sometimes it’s Ivy, which is also not especially healthy, but at least Ivy’s just a bad influence. I think separating Harley from either or both of them would take extensive therapy and psychiatric care in a place that’s not Arkham, without being broken out by anybody. Given that these are Batman villains we’re talking about, that’s not going to happen. If it did happen, maybe then I’d see Harley going back to Harleen. But then, nobody’s going to read a comic book about Harleen Quinzel, Completely Sane and Healthy Therapist, and Her Adventures in Relatively Mundane Mental Healthcare.

:mag_right: If not, what do you think is in the books for Harley and her Puddin’?

Barring a drastic shift in characterization (which has already… sort of happened?), pretty much the same sort of thing they’ve always done.


There’s something about Clowns, maybe when Harley’s Parents first was born they name her after a clown Harlequinn, it is unknown to me if Harley love or hate clowns while growing up. Maybe one day she saw a movie ‘IT’ starring Tim Curry. To her how cool it is to meet a clown like that! And when she first saw the Joker, the It clown comes to mind! What’s interesting in Mad Love, Harley isn’t afraid of Joker when first met.
Do I think Joker love Harley? I think he does, he might not show it, any couples has their ups and downs.
I don’t think Harley will ever be back to normal, She’s so in love with a Joker and hangs out with Poison Ivy, alot.


oOo, when did we get this discussion?
Lemme go dig around in the replies for something juicy!


:mag_right:What initially drew Dr. Harleen Quinzel into the The Joker’s world?

Harley appears to be an extreme case of Nightingale syndrome, and she also has a codependent personality. The Joker is very manipulative and took advantage of the situation to control her. As it has been illustrated numerous times before, The Joker takes joy in breaking people and bringing them down to his level.

:mag_right: Do you think there’s hope for Harley to ever return to being Harleen Quinzel?

After everything she’s been through, I don’t think she’ll ever be the same. For better or worse, life experiences shape us into who we are. The only way I can see Dr. Quinzel returning is if there is some sort of amnesia storyline.

:mag_right: Do you think somewhere in that twisted heart The Joker actually loves Harley?

The only thing The Joker loves is causing mayhem. I never understood the people who look at Joker and Harley as a romantic relationship because it’s a very unhealthy abusive relationship. The Joker was physically, emotionally, and verbally abusive towards Harley, and viewed her as nothing more than an object to further his schemes or torture for his amusement.

:mag_right: Will Harley ever truly part ways with The Joker?

She will never truly be rid of him because the scars from her time with The Joker still remain which could be symbolized in how she retains some of the clownish elements.

:mag_right: If not, what do you think is in the books for Harley and her Puddin’?

As I stated before, they have an abusive relationship and unfortunately abusers have a tendency to lure back their victims with empty promises that things will be different this time around. Even if Harley does finally move on, I could see the Joker stalking her because he wants to have the last laugh and end things on his terms.


Just for the record, I am NOT a bad guy! I love her, but I won’t show weakness. Harley makes my black heart skip a beat, but she is volatile at times and needs to be contained (which is hard). @Beagle, I will not stand being called an abuser - you are not living this life. Harley needs me and secretly I guess I need her - she is the Ying to my Yang. But she never should have made the piranhas smile.


Your comment about her caring about others, and that influencing both her career of choice, and attraction to the Joker’s world is quite the interesting perspective, @Nogoodchuck. Leaves me wondering about the personality traits that could be particularly susceptible to being pulled in by such (which I contemplate from the perspective of irl experiences).

The aspect of “love” in this situation’s equally thought-provoking. Is love actually, legitimately, and entirely love when it’s so dysfunctional? My sliding emotional scale says, “maybe… but perhaps it depends on the details, and the perspectives. From the inside of their bubble, looking out, it might certainly feel like it for both parties.” But what degree do feelings also make such real?

That said, in this case, I can understand the “ying and yang” comment mentioned above, regardless. lol

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“Harleen Quinzel is just her legal name. Harley is who she is.”

Love that. :raised_hands:

“That assumes that there wasn’t a bit of Harley in her from the beginning”

Very relevant. Surely, this is exactly why the Joker was able to successfully draw her into his world.
He saw the Harlequin hiding inside and made it his mission to draw her out - both out of pure psychotic interest and because he saw that “Harley” would be the perfect person to fill the open position for “pawn” in his life.

Also, it’s very interesting that you point out the Bat. I forgot what it was I was reading or watching where there was a comment made by the Joker (I believe it was) that alluded to the depth/nature of the relationship that the Joker and Bat shared.

If there’s anyone the Joker truly loves, it might just be The Bat. :upside_down_face::slightly_smiling_face::upside_down_face:

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I have to know because of this thread— mods, will Harley and Ivy ever get married?

I like that you brought up Harley and Ivy. I was wondering when that was gonna happen in the discussion.

I think one can get a fuller view of Harley and understand her a little better when looking at her relationships in general.

You’re right, she is quite intelligent, which is depicted in bursts here and there, in her exploits with Joker, as Harley - But also, very much so, as Dr. Quinzel.

However, her emotional needs strongly outweigh her mental fortitude, which is why - as you mentioned - the Joker chose her as the likely candidate for manipulation and future use.

Yes, she has a traumatic childhood, which was the Joker’s “in”. But there had to be more for him to be able to not just gain her trust and get her to let her guards down, but to also manipulate her into making decisions in his favor (and against her own) and forge a path down which he would continue to use her as a pawn in a variety of psychotic schemes.

You would think a psychiatrist would be able to see through each of these schemes as they arose. I mean, it’s not like she just forgot all of her knowledge as a psychiatrist.

The Joker presented something to her that she willingly CHOSE to follow. Something that served her so fully, emotionally, that trumped what she KNEW mentally.

But what is that “something” exactly?

Is it something as simple as, “freedom to do and be as she pleases”? We all want that. But there are very few things that would make most of us just up and trash everything we believe about what is “right” in society and as a human being.

Having grown up with an abusive father… Hm. Seems my stream of consciousness has brought me to what is probably the case. Lol

They say (whoever they is) that girls tend to fall for men who are much like their fathers, even when they try their hardest not to. So, if that daddy - daughter complex can be that deeply rooted, it makes sense that even though she may KNOW that abuse is wrong, he heart tells her otherwise.

Hence, the viciously abusive and tumultuous relationship she was manipulated into choosing to enter, and is now stuck in, with the Joker.


Joker seems to represent what her heart “wants” while Ivy represents what her heart “needs”.

Though both relationships reflect how lost she is emotionally, as both Ivy and the Joker, however different, instruct Harley on what to do in life.

Looks like you got off the train at my stop, @LW. ^ ^

I would definitely have to agree. While I am not a psychologist (though an “armchair psychologist” I might be! :face_with_monocle:), it is also my understanding that when a young girl grows up with an abusive father, later in life there is a great chance that she will end up seeking out men who are similar to her father.

Our parents are our first introductions to, lessons on, and examples of love. Our mothers show us how to love, while our fathers show us how to be loved (or vv., depending on gender/sexual orientation).

Her self worth wasn’t exactly nurtured and built up, throughout childhood either.

While all of this isn’t to say that one can not overcome childhood abuse or that every victim of abuse will go on to become a psychological case of some sort.

But it’s truly no wonder Harley in particular would fall for someone like the Joker.