The Opposite of Relationship Goals

The Opposite of Relationship Goals
Dane La Born

Dane La Born

With Suicide Squad fast approaching theaters, I thought it might be a good minute for a reality check.

See, lately I’ve seen a lot of internetting around the pairing of Joker and Harley Quinn as the definition of romance and perseverance, with his-and-her t-shirts sporting ‘Her Joker’ and ‘His Harley’ emblazoned over the images of the characters.

This is not okay.

I don’t understand what it is about fan bases that latch on to the most inappropriate relationships, but it happens an awful lot. With Joker and Harley, there is no romance, there is only one woman’s obsession and one man’s psychosis manifesting itself in abuse after extensive abuse upon her. These are not relationship goals. Joker doesn’t care about Harley, something she’s recently realized in the comics. We already know that Suicide Squad has altered her origin away from the manipulation of “Mad Love,” deciding instead that a dunk in the same chemical goop that made Mistah J would suffice. Already, months before the movie has been released, we know that a crucial element of their relationship has been altered, and it worries me that people are going to latch onto Joker and Harley the way they have so many dysfunctional and abusive couples before.

There is absolute precedent for this concern. When Twilight fever was sweeping the nation, a generation of young women were learning that it was okay for their boyfriends to stalk them, control them, generally treat them as objects, so long as it was ‘out of true love.’ For people who like their domestic abuse a little more blatant and “erotic,” 50 Shades of Grey has caused the masses to think of BDSM relationships as just straight-up one-sided abuse and stalking.

It is by no means limited to just abuse either. The Scandal fan-base romanticizes an affair between the President of the United States and some random political fixer, something that has definitely lead to impeachment in my lifetime (intern, not fixer, point stands). It goes back in literature to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, and Leo Tolstoy. I mean, to this day half the world considers Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet to be the definitive story of true love, and they are both dead by the end of the play.

What is it with humans? Why does it seem like we pick the worst possible aspects of our favorite bits of pop culture to latch onto? No one would actually want to live the life of Harley Quinn. Psychopaths absolutely want to live the life of the Joker, but that’s kinda my point. Right now the fandom world (the stupid ones who don’t bother reading comics) are obsessing over how romantic the story of Joker and Harley Quinn is, just as 12-year-olds obsessed over the romance of Edward and Bella in Twilight, and lots of older women lusted after an abusive stalker named Christian Grey in one of the honest-to-god worst written books ever.

For some reason, we romanticize abuse in pop culture. All kinds of abuse; emotional, physical, verbal, whatever the hell you would call what happens between Romeo and Juliet. I don’t have the answer as to why. My guess is we just want to focus on the positive, so we choose to remember the balcony scene instead of the mutual suicide and stupidity. With Joker and Harley, people pretend that the psychopath actually has feelings, because that’s the only real way to justify anything about that relationship. There is very little positive that happens between the two of them, most of the time is taken up by him beating her or pushing her out windows or ignoring her entirely.

So stop. Aspire to some decent pop culture pairings. Batman and Catwoman are always fun. Wonder Woman and whoever the hell she wants to be with (because nobody is going to do anything to Wonder Woman now that it’s not 1930). The Doctor and Rose Tyler. These are nice, decent, actual true-love things, free of the abuse, manipulation, stalking, and general horribleness of all the above-mentioned. It’s just unsettling to me to admire the things that make so many other people’s lives so hard.

Categories: Commentary