There are plenty of things to be annoyed with about Batman and Harley Quinn. It looks cheap, it cuts more corners than it should, and it feels much more like an average TV episode than an actual movie. But the biggest problem is how much it cheapens Harley Quinn, turning a beloved character into an “Idiot Meat Skank.” And those are the movie’s words, not mine.
Batman and Harley Quinn is DC’s newest animated original movie, only a few films removed from the disaster that was its adaptation of The Killing Joke, which was panned for how poorly it handled the character of Barbara Gordon. That film worsened an already awful storyline about Batgirl’s paralyzation by also making her desperate to fuck Batman. That’s not to say Batman and Harley Quinn writer Bruce Timm, who also produced The Killing Joke, needed this new movie to atone for the previous one’s sins.
But I am saying he should’ve done literally anything else but a movie that reduced Harley Quinn to tits, ass, and horniness. I mean, here’s where we find our titular co-star:
That’s Superbabes, a Hooters-type bar where drooling men surround themselves with female servers scantily clad as heroes and villains. This is where we first see Harley Quinn (Melissa Rauch), who’s working undercover as, well, herself in an effort to live a crime-free existence after getting out of Arkham. Of course, Batman and Nightwing (reprised by Kevin Conroy and Loren Lester) wreck her life because they need her help finding Poison Ivy, who teamed up with villain Jason Woodrue/Plant Master to turn everybody into plant-human hybrids.
Nightwing is tasked with fetching Harley Quinn, heading home after a long shift of having men try to grab her ass—literally, the first shot we see of Harley is from behind as she bends over to hand some perverts their burgers. Only Harley isn’t interested in helping Nightwing, so she proceeds to knock him out and tie him to her bed. She spends the first few minutes of their conversation talking about how annoyed she is that everyone treats her like a whore, then she strips down to her underwear, pounces on top of Nightwing, and insists they have sex.
This can be viewed in one of two ways: Either it’s a male gaze-based fantasy, where the female character can’t help but want to bang the guy so badly she’ll force the situation, or it’s borderline sexual assault. Nightwing appears to give consent, but he’s still been rendered unable to say no. (If the genders were reversed, we’d be seeing it in an entirely different way.) Anyway, they totally fuck, and she says she’ll call him again when she “runs out of batteries.” Wonderful.
Harley Quinn joins Batman and Nightwing’s operation, acting less like the beloved Bugs Bunny/antivillain she’s evolved into over the years, and more like a petulant but highly sexualized child who Batman keeps having to scold. They get some of the moments right, like when Harley Quinn leads the Dynamic Duo on a wild goose chase so she can beat up the guy who stood her up at prom. But then, Batman shushes her in the Batmobile and she just lets him, quietly fuming that Daddy Bat isn’t letting her have any fun. She’s freaking Harley Quinn. If she wants to have fun, she’ll have fun!
Of course, in the movie’s world, having fun equals shaking her tits.
For some reason, the movie devotes two whole minutes to a musical number, which you can watch here. Harley Quinn is ordered to sing “Hanging On The Telephone” by the Nerves in order to get information from her contact, Shrubby (the performance isn’t bad, although Rauch loses her accent the further into the song she gets). Surrounded by some of Batman’s henchmen (not any villains!), Harley Quinn croons and gyrates on stage, accompanied by her prominently featured hips and butt. You can say it’s an homage to her song-and-dance in the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode “Harlequinade,” but much like everything else here, it’s much, much more sexualized.
In fact, getting in the maximum amount of Harley Quinn T&A/sex stuff seems to be the entire point of the film. It certainly isn’t the plot; Poison Ivy abandons her plant people plan rather quickly, leaving the gang to defeat only Woodrue, which the movie doesn’t even bother to show us. The main movie ends with Batman and Nightwing kissing Harley Quinn on the cheeks as she lights a match to burn Jason alive. At least Swamp Thing shows up at one point in all his godlike glory, which I’ll admit was the best part of the film.
Look, I’m not saying Harley Quinn can’t be sexual. I mean look at her relationship in Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Harley Quinn comic, where the antivillain owns her sexuality without ever getting sleazy. Or check out her sexy and meaningful relationship with Poison Ivy in DC Bombshells. Her whole character has major sexual undertones, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring them in a more adult film like this one. But this PG-13 flick isn’t interested in exploring Harley’s sexuality, it just wants to show you her in her underwear, or have a close-up of her jiggling boobs.
And Batman and Harley Quinn doesn’t even have a decent enough story to even pretend it’s more than fan service. Maybe the plot would satisfy a kid, like the lesser B:TAS episodes, but it’s way too objectifying to let a kid watch it. Harley Quinn deserves a lot better than this movie. And after The Killing Joke debacle, DC fans deserve a lot better, too.