Harley Quinn — The Only Show With a Giant Ice Vagina

May 13th, 2020

 

It's basically Venture Bros minus copyright concerns.

I've caught up with this after hearing the initial relatively positive buzz and then subsequently forgetting that it existed, as I'm wont to do with things, and I think I'll be covering this on Fridays when the new episodes come out for at least the rest of the season, just picking right up this week for want of anything better to do this season.

In any case, this is very clearly designed to be, if not outright designed by, basically the same kind of comedic setup as Venture Bros or The Tick, but answers the question of what it would be like if the show could just use the actual characters instead of having to come up with obvious parodies to avoid lawsuits. Which is to say that it has superheroes make rapidfire jokes about mundane stuff while engaging in comic book situations, and the universe's norm is warped in absurdist ways to provide the infrastructure for it. I suppose Venture Bros was also meant to be more of a spoof of Johnny Quest type shows than comic book stuff, but that's only for the first couple seasons before it vanished up its own ass and every episode became choked with callbacks and references to itself and its own lore.

Harley Quinn is still a bit more continuity focused than early Venture Bros, even though I feel like it's still struggling a bit to round out characters. Ironically, it's the primary ones like Harley and Ivy who I feel like they're having the hardest time with. There's only so many times the two of them can learn the lesson that friendship is the real magic, and yet, they've learned that lesson probably eight times across sixteen episodes. It kind of makes me think of how characters are handled in every early Star Trek season. They have their gimmick, and it must always be about that one gimmick, whether it's Tasha Yar talking about rape gangs, or Chakotay's answer to every problem being to get high off peyote and talk to your spirit animal. Other characters like Pyscho and Clayface have actually started coming into their own a little more rather than endless hammy actor jokes or political correctness things. King Shark has always been good for a chuckle too, particularly with the casual biting off of heads.

A recent episode also had them outright pick a fight with internet people calling it a filthy progressive show because it has female main characters. As in, was literally bookended by characters complaining about that. I feel like I can't talk about the show without mentioning it, but it also feels like a very weird fight to pick as it keeps lionizing Kite Man, an awkward wannabe macho poser who nonetheless charms every single woman with his fumbling social missteps. They've made a few motions that he's mostly an okay guy, but it keeps going on and on about how Joker and Harley had a toxic and abusive relationship, but is celebrating Kite Man mostly being an obnoxious overbearing dick in his relationship because he's awkward, I feel like they haven't really shown that there's enough of a difference there.

I also feel like Harley's origin story episode missed the mark by a mile. For starters, it was all about the mystery of her memory having a blank when Joker supposedly pushed her into acid, forcing her to become who she was. What could have possibly happened in that blank? When it reaches the very obvious eventual reveal that she jumped in herself, they try to sell it as it being proof that she was always in control of everything, at all points, and always. When it's trying to talk about people being trapped and powerless in abusive relationships, gaslighted and manipulated at every turn, that's pretty damn tonedeaf. I get what they were going for, but "it's your fault if you're in a bad situation and you can get out of it whenever you feel like it" is… a problematic way to approach life.

Anyway, I'm just going to be picking this up to cover weekly (airs Fridays) for the rest of the season, just assuming that nobody needs any further catching up. I'm not the hugest fan of it, but I have chuckled at its gags more than I have any anime comedy in a long while, so we can call that a win.

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