Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Harley and Ivy

Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy: are they totally hot for each other or what?

Well yes, of course they are. But although giving comic characters a homosexual subtext is somehow a whole lot less controversial when they are female rather than if they are male, it's still problematic to openly admit it, especially when the relationship comes out of a cartoon aimed at a 'family' audience, ie. one where the older members of the family don't want to have to explain any of the more complicated aspects of life to the younger ones because the show they are watching was realistic enough to contain any. So although Harley and Ivy are often seen living together, in situations and states of undress that a pair of male characters could never get away with, no details are ever given about their relationship.

Except for one time, in the Batgirl Adventures special, Paul Dini (responsible for the whole situation in the first place) manages to slip in a couple of references that really leave no doubt as to what's going on. The most significant piece of dialogue comes when Harley and Batgirl find Ivy tied up, and at the mercy of the evil Kit Nozawa and her all girl gang and Batgirl says "Why you care about that walking waste dump is beyond me. You'd be safer around a spitting cobra."

And if that wasn't enough, there's also the panel where Ivy describes Harley as "More important to me than you'll ever know." And then when Harley and Ivy are finally reunited...

Aw, it's so sweet.

It's kinda funny that all this paranoid editorial self censorship has actually resulted in a relatively subtle depiction of a lesbian relationship. If they have to pretend it's not there it can never become an issue in the way overt depictions of homosexuality are usually handled.

Go Paul Dini!


Anonymous said...

AC Comics should revive Fiction House's Cowgirl Romances with a you-know-what modern twist.

Ragnell said...

I like the subtlety. A lesbian relationship, especially with two such sexually charged characters as the two Batman villianesses we see, is kind of a major male fantasy. I think that certain writers and artists wouldn't be able to resist crossing the line of good taste.

Then it leads to censors freaking out and making them rewrite/redraw the scene, or if it gets published and proves to be more graghic than acceptable, we get another censorship controversy on our hands.

And no one wants that.

At least with a male-male relationship, they can show a kiss and won't slip beyond that into Vertigo territory. I'm not sure I trust most modern writers and artists to show that kind of restraint with a female-female relationship, though.

JP said...

It's highly confusing though, because Harley is still portraed as The Joker's moll and Ivy still does that whole pheremonal seductress bit with Batman. There's a Dini-penned story in Batman Black & White 2 where Ivy and Harley share adjoining cells in Arkham, and have a bet to see who can get more guys to kiss her. So I don't really know what Dini is trying to portray, precisely.

Anonymous said...

I'll find this a lot more endearing once two ugly guys can have a similarly-accepted gay romance. The trope of the attractive, "lipstick" lesbian is accepted because it's played for the sake of male titillation, not for genuine tolerance.

Beyond that, it's cheap slash all the way. Am I the only one who finds Harley Quinn to be obnoxiously cutesy to begin with?

Anonymous said...

I don't have the source in front of me, but I swear I saw this in a Batman Adventures cartoon (or some variation of that franchise):

Batgirl asked either Harley or Ivy if they knew what people said about them.

The villain responded that it was the same thing said about Batgirl and Supergirl.

I'm mangling this terribly, because it was years ago, but the essence is there My husband and I both screamed and looked at each other wide-eyed.

Unless I slipped dimensions again, in which case, please ignore this comment.

Tom Foss said...

What's great about the Dini/Timm Animated stuff is how many things fly under people's radar.

F'r instance, Harley and Ivy may or may not have been a thing. Both had boyfriends on and off, and Ivy even started a faux '50s nuclear family at one point. It's certainly possible that they're both bi, but nothing was ever said concretely one way or another (even that panel with Batgirl is only obliquely suggestive).

But Maggie Sawyer, an avowed lesbian in the comic series, made the jump to Superman: The Animated Series with her sexuality intact. Her partner Toby was frequently shown at her side, laying with her on the couch, caring for her in the hospital, and while there wasn't anything over-the-top, the relationship was clear. And, unlike Postcards from Buster, it was done so tastefully and treated so normally that no one even noticed something (if you'll pardon the expression) queer was going on. That, in my opinion, is fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I note that DC’s two bisexual characters are villainesses, with “questionable mantel stability”. I think the subtext that these are two evil people is… less than subtle?
DC’s Character with a transsexual partner, (Element Lad) is a thousand years in the future. (Subtext here… “”We won’t be ready for it for a long time”?)
IMHO It would be a LOT more gutsy if a major modern hero/heroin came out… The obvious choice is the one character that hales from a culture (According to Greek mythology) where lesbianism is the norm, and she’d be ostracized for her bi-curious infatuation with Major Trevor. The potential in THIS plot line could fill 3 or 4 dozen eschews with some real commentary on the whole LGBT thing or society is reselling with right now.