Franchise feminism is all the rage. Or is it?

ARLEY QUINN IS AN UNLIKELY CHARACTER TO try to transform into a feminist icon. The villain—and longtime girlfriend of a physically and emotionally abusive Joker—has been a troubling figure in the animated TV series, comics and video games since she was introduced in 1992. Her suffering was frequently used as a punch line: in the popular 2009 video game after the Dark Knight gets into an altercation with her, the Joker quips, “Slapping around Harley is hobby.” Director David Ayer did little to revise that characterization in his critically reviled but commercially successful 2016 superhero movie Harley’s big-screen debut. The film fetishized her pain: Harley, played by Margot Robbie, sported a jacket reading PROPERTY OF THE JOKER.

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