Harley Quinn and the Emancipation From the Male Gaze

I am very excited for the upcoming DC movie, Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn. I’ve been a huge fan of the character since Batman: The Animated Series. I remember during DC’s The New 52 launch that they announced the ending of Harley Quinn and the Joker’s breakup. In my opinion that break up was the best thing that could have ever happened to her character. Harley Quinn is a play on the word harlequin, a person who serves to entertain others. Her character has always been submissive and loyal to the Joker. Her character has also been heavily sexualized. Which is why I am extra excited to see a film about her that is not under the male gaze.

So what’s the difference between the male gaze and the female gaze? The male gaze depicts women from a male, heterosexual perspective. Often these depictions of women are objectifying because filmmakers will represent women solely as sexual objects. Laura Mulvey, feminist film theorist invented the term the male gaze and compares it to scopophilia. The male gaze denies a woman’s agency by dehumanizing her for their own sexual fantasy and pleasure. As a response to the male gaze, Mulvey creates the female gaze. The female gaze represents the perspective of the female viewer or filmmaker. There’s three different aspects to the female gaze: The individual filming, The characters within the film, and the spectator.

Suicide Squad directed and written by David Ayer shows Harley Quinn under the male gaze.


Harley Quinn has long pigtails and her bangs frame her face. It is also perfectly dyed. Her lipstick is smudged at the end of her lips to appear like she’s been beaten. Harley Quinn also wears a dog collar that has “Puddin,” around her neck because that is what she called the Joker. Her shirt says, “Daddy’s Lil Monster,” meaning she belongs to someone. Her shirt is ripped in specific places like underneath her boobs, belly button, and her shirt exposes her midriff. She also wears booty shorts that expose the majority of her legs.


Birds of Prey directed by Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson shows Harley Quinn under the female gaze. Harley Quinn’s hair is short and even though she still has pigtails they’re short enough where they can’t be pulled on. Her bangs are also choppy and her hair isn’t perfectly dyed. It’s messy and more realistic. Her iconic bright red lips aren’t smudged to look like someone punched her. She no longer wears the dog collar or t-shirt to represent that she belongs to someone. It looks like she isn’t wearing a padded bra and there is nothing that accentuates her breasts. She isn’t wearing her “harlequin” colors that she is known for. She wears a pink top, red suspenders, and a rainbow jacket. The vibrancy of all of those colors distract the viewer from her body. As a female spectator that outfit just looks like it is a ton of fun to wear. It definitely shows she is living her best post-breakup, “Truth Hurts” life.

How do you guys feel about this film rebirth of Harley Quinn? Please share your opinions. Thanks for reading!



Published by notesfromadork

Hey everyone! Thanks for checking out my website. Like most people I'm really into pop culture and I can be a bit of a dork about it. I like TV shows, movies, the internet, and other nouns.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: