Welcome to the fifth article of our 2021 Pride Month Series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media.
Today, we are talking about Harley and Poison Ivy’s relationship, as seen in the Harley Quinn Animated Series. Harley and Ivy’s relationship has been a strong force to be reckoned with since Batman: The Animated Series, but as their friendship evolved and expanded to other universes, their relationship turned into something more. In Harley Quinn #25, they officially went canon after sharing a kiss in DC’s main continuity. But that wasn’t their first on-panel kiss. In fact, that took place in DC Comics: Bombshells #42.
There are spoilers for both season of Harley Quinn below.
Harley and Ivy have had a complicated go at things with other adaptions, continuously being split up and brought back together at any given time, but Harley Quinn does the exact opposite. Not only does it champion their friendship, but their slow-burn romance as well.
The series starts out with Harley and Joker’s relationship. Multiple times, he calls Harley a “sidekick” and tells her he would come back for her, and each time, he doesn’t. After she escapes Arkham, she confronts Joker and breaks up with him. Joker wasn’t having this, however, and uses reverse psychology so that she would return to him. But it doesn’t last long, because Joker chooses his old enemy Batman over her once again, and leaves her to her fate. At this point, she realizes he never loved her, but he says she can never leave him; he’s the Joker and Gotham’s most notorious villain. But Harley aims to change that by taking his place.
This time, she has Ivy by her side to act as her voice of reason and her shoulder to lean on. An important thing to take note of from season 1 is that Ivy was never used as a rebound for Harley. She’s the one who continuously pushed Harley to leave her toxic relationship with Joker, but it was never done in an “I told you so” fashion: she simply wanted to be there for her as a friend. Because of this, their friendship was able to grow stronger, and Harley could focus her attention on being Gotham’s new number one villain, proving she’s more than the preconceived notions. But it didn’t start out this way. When they first met at Arkham before Harley adopted her alias and was still Dr. Harleen Quinzel, Ivy spit in her face through the glass. Later, Ivy gives Harley a key piece of information about Joker, and to repay her, Harley gives her a piece of a plant. Joker tries to use Harley as a shield as a means to escape, not caring if she lived or died, and because of the plant, Ivy is not only able to escape to save Harley from Joker’s grasp, she saves Harley by surrendering.
In season 2, viewers finally get a look at what Harley and Ivy could be when they get sent to the Pit by Bane and Ivy saves Harley’s life. This is where they share their first kiss. It isn’t the first and only time either because on Ivy’s bachelorette getaway to Themyscira to celebrate her and Kite Man’s nuptials, they sleep together. The season explores their feelings about each other. Whereas Harley quickly falls head over heels for Ivy and is ready to take the next step, Ivy is more reserved — not wanting to chance ruining her friendship with Harley by dating her.
Flash forward to Kite Man and Ivy’s wedding day, Harley tries to stop it from happening. However, she gets interrupted. Harley notices a “caterer” at the ceremony, and it’s revealed to be a member of the Gotham police. As Commissioner Gordon and other officers swoop in to arrest all the villains in attendance, Harley, Kite Man, and Ivy are able to break out.
Outside, Harley offers to marry them, because she’s an ordained minister (she’s even got a lanyard to prove it!), but it’s then that Kite Man realizes Ivy’s hesitation about marrying him. He could see it on her face during their vows that it isn’t what she wanted, and she said it herself, he deserves the best. Although heartbreaking for Ivy, she is finally able to confess her true feelings to Harley that have been inside all along.
As they’re speeding away from Gotham P.D. in a car that’s a callback to Rose Bud from Batman The Animated Series, it’s at this time Ivy finally sees she’s been delaying the inevitable, and it’s hurt a lot of people. Harley is proud of her for admitting her truth and lets her know people change, much like she did. The two kiss and confirm what fans were waiting and hoping for.
IVY: You showed me the Harls I always wanted to see, you know?
HARLEY: Y-You don’t think I’m chaotic? And crazy? And make a bunch of messes?
IVY: No, you definitely do that but you’re trying to grow and actually doing it. And that, I mean for me, that’s what matters.
HARLEY: I love you, Ive.
IVY: I love you too, Harls.
Their relationship wasn’t haphazardly thrown together. This is something showrunners Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker wanted to happen when the time was right. If they were going to put these two strong forces together, they wanted it to make sense and they wanted the special moment to mean something. There are plenty of instances in the show they could have ended up together before they did, but in my opinion, their personal growth as individuals needed to happen before they could find themselves in a happy and serious relationship.
In an interview with Syfy, Halpern discussed season 3 and not wanting to make the plot about whether or not Harley and Ivy will stay together.
“It’s much more interesting to do a show about how you navigate these very different personalities being in a relationship. And what are the fun things that can come out of that? What are the outside influences that can make the relationship tough but without the stakes being “Are they going to break up? Are they not?”
While we have a long waiting time to see what they get up to in season 3, seeing Harley and Ivy’s sexuality being treated seriously is a breath of fresh air for not just the characters, but fans who see themselves in them and people just discovering their own sexuality. Nothing is forced for the sake of inclusion — Harley and Ivy are exactly who they want to be, and it’s time that the entertainment industry as a whole takes notice of how to commit to queer storytelling and do it justice.
Both seasons of Harley Quinn are available to stream on HBO Max now. Stay tuned for the next addition to our Pride Month series tomorrow!