Harley and Ivy’s Relationship
The Harley and Ivy relationship is one that has long fascinated me. Harley Quinn, as I’ve noted a couple times on this very website is quite possibly my favorite character ever. Cartoons, Television, Movies, Literature, it doesn’t matter she’s always top billing in my eyes.
Initially a psychiatrist working at Arkham Asylum, it’s been implied in various media over the years that Harley was quite the athlete earning a gymnastics scholarship to Gotham University whilst applying her goal to write a book about The Joker in the psychiatric department. Some insinuations have been made that she likely kissed her way to achieve the high grades she got in order to later apply to Arkham Asylum where she would fall for The Joker and bust him out one night after Batman roughed up her puddin’ one time too many.
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Very rarely does Harley physically involve herself solo, with her memorable fight against Batman in the episode, “Harley’s Holiday,” being fairly noteworthy in this regard and even then she uses her limbs and athleticism to keep him at bay and physically away from her. She uses this same technique of fighting from afar with Batgirl in the movie, “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker,” again highlighting that Harley, for all her criminality, is more akin to a thief like Catwoman than a physical fighter. Even Batgirl, the hero, is usually more physically combative than Harley usually is or arguably may ever actually be. In a way, Harley lays low and uses her savvy and intelligence to ‘fight’ against others. When she tries to kill Joker in her self-titled issue, “Batman: Harley Quinn,” she does so by trying to fire him off in a rocket ship.
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For all the thievery and crimes, Harley typifies that straddled line between being a ‘good’ person in a bad world and a ‘bad’ person in a good world. She sums up that very attitude by telling Batman, “It’s just a joke,” a mechanism to deflect her own role in the more overt violent aspects of her life. It’s even telling that her main weapons are literally a pop gun complete with stopper to plug in</font color> and a mallet. Neither weapon is really thought of as serious, much like her overall, but can pack a wallop all the same without overtly coming off as dangerous as say a machine gun or poison gas.
Ivy’s always intrigued me since she’s largely been treated mostly as an Eco Terrorist, favoring plant life and forestation over the lives of the people around her. Much like Harley, her intelligence related to Botany and plant chemicalization tends to be overlooked if not whittled down in favor of either her physical seductive capabilities or the generalization of her desire to see nature defeat man.
In a lot of ways, Ivy represents the ‘green’ shadow to Harley’s character. Ivy is very willing to kill for what she believes in and makes no mincing of words when it comes to those types of threats. She also very rarely teams up with anybody else, preferring to do the job alone because she’s confident in what she’s after, possesses the smarts to accomplish her act, and isn’t afraid to try and take on Batman physically by ensnaring him with her chemically altered plants.
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Ivy isn’t afraid to lean on her natural sexuality and use it to get what she wants whereas Harley, working mostly as a thief, has to use her brain and quick wits. It’s yet another contrast to their personalities as well. The confidence which Ivy exudes correlates to her ability to flare herself to others costume wise and she shows no concern over being so audacious about her physical endowments. In a way, the knowledge of her own self alluring is her most dangerous weapon as Ivy is not only capable of physically controlling men and women through her kiss but now she can accomplish it visually without the need for direct contact. Opposite of Harley’s desire to keep others at bay for the most part, Ivy not only courts them closer but almost demands they be close enough to touch.
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Ivy isn’t confined to a box when it comes to how dangerous she can be and the contrast with Harley becomes further clarified in the episode that initially put them together, “Harley and Ivy,” where Harley is able to use her athleticism to very nearly steal a diamond without tripping an alarm yet Ivy trips the alarm in her goal to steal toxins without much forethought to how to escape if come upon by police. It’s a credit that their partnership begins with Harley appropriating a toxin with her own pop gun weapon as a means for the two of them to escape from Montoya and the police. A scenario that relied upon Harley’s smarts instead of Ivy’s physicality.
The Harley and Ivy Relationship
Initially teaming up in a Batman: The Animated Series episode, it’s immediately apparent to see how well they mesh with Ivy even inoculating Harley so she won’t die from the toxin fumes surrounding Ivy’s hideout. Ivy’s willingness for companionship becomes a true partnership with Harley; Ivy usually the dominant figure in the scheming while Harley nearly worships Ivy’s confidence and take charge nature. This is subdued compared to The Joker, whom Harley has just received the boot from; literally in this case.
The sexual subtext of the relationship has subsequently become text over the years, with even Paul Dini and Bruce Timm confirming the two as having a romantic relationship. Albeit abusive at times, the relationship works very well as a give and take for both Harley and Ivy. Harley is able to offer up a form of close companionship for Ivy while supporting Ivy with what I would call field smarts during their stealing methods. Ivy, for her part, deeply cares for Harley in a manner that Joker rarely offers up and Ivy tries to build up Harley from the inside out. In a lot of ways, Ivy sees Harley as the ideal form of nature’s woman betrothed to the man intent upon ruination physically. For every instance that Harley builds up her confidence and her own ability to stand on her own two feet thanks to Ivy, the progress gets hampered when Joker gets involved.
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On some level, Ivy recognizes the need for what Harley offers her within the relationship and between her genuine fondness and desire for compatibility with another person, Ivy is able to open herself somewhat around Harley and reciprocate her own inner strengths. I believe the relationship transitioned greatly from one of necessity to escape in the moment to one of symbiotic give and take to the point that it’s arguably developed into a legit relationship of love on a deeper level than just pure sexual desire.
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While Ivy is often portrayed as the one chasing Harley with a desire of pushing the relationship from friends with benefits to a true romance, I think it under develops Harley’s own desire to truly settle down with somebody that treats her as an equal and loves her for being her. Harley, usually, gets that opportunity more with Ivy than she does with Joker. The balance of their relationship has helped Harley and Ivy to actually evolve as a substantive, if not outright ideal, lesbian relationship of love (over fornication) through the years aided by Harley’s care towards Ivy through the initial bonds of friendship and Ivy’s care towards Harley through the initial bonds of companionship.
Their tandem is really a fascinating relationship to follow. For all of Harley’s qualities good and bad, Ivy allows Harley a way to not be Harley Quinn and vice versa as Harley allows Ivy to, for all intents and purposes, let her hair down as well. Rather than being just villains known by their monikers, they attribute nicknames to one another in the form of Harls and Red. They, in essence, are full people around one another becoming Harleen and Pamela without a need to camouflage their bad traits or cover up what makes them good and desirable to stay in the villain spotlight. The hugs, the sexy shirt switching, the teasing of mistletoe, their lack of personal space with one another, it all is one hundred percent genuine in a world covered up in aliases.
I’ll close this out with a personal favorite series of panels with regards to this relationship.