Unexpected Makeover: Harley Quinn’s Origins Rewritten in Joker 2 Sequel

Joker: Folie à Deux’s first trailer reveals that Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn has a surprisingly different origin story in Todd Phillips’ DC sequel.

Lady Gaga Playing Harley Quinn in Various Scenes of Joker Folie a Deux

The first full trailer for Joker: Folie à Deux confirms that Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn is getting a very different origin story from every other version of the DC character. Todd Phillips’ Joker: Folie à Deux brings Joaquin Phoenix back as Arthur Fleck alongside Joker’s new partner in crime, Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn. Together, Joker and Harley Quinn seem to be a ticking time bomb for Gotham, as Joker’s influence on the city has made him a controversial public figure with plenty of loyal followers and supporters, and Harley Quinn is one flirtatious crush away from becoming another Joker.

Todd Phillips’ Joker made massive changes to the titular character, including his sympathetic backstory and Batman’s absence in the villain’s criminal origin. In Joker‘s ultra-realistic universe, vigilantes and supervillains seem to be nonexistent, and only some well-known DC figures are easy to spot, albeit with several changes to help them fit this continuity — among them, Thomas and Bruce Wayne, who serve as a representation of Gotham’s elite. Similarly, Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn is introduced with various major changes, especially regarding her origin story.

Harley Quinn Isn’t Arthur Fleck’s Doctor In Joker: Folie À Deux, But Another Patient

Joker: Folie À Deux’s First Trailer Confirms That Harley Quinn Is An Arkham State Hospital Patient

Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn Seeing Arthur Fleck for the First Time in Joker Folie a Deux

After a long wait, Joker: Folie à Deux‘s first trailer reveals how Joker meets Harley Quinn in Todd Phillips’ DC Elseworlds universe. Contrary to every previous iteration of Joker’s first love, Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn is introduced as a patient in Arkham State Hospital. In the first shots of the trailer, Arthur Fleck and Harley Quinn exchange a quick glance while Fleck is being escorted out of his cell and Harley is participating in a group singing class. Following the sequence of events suggested by the movie, Harley lets Joker know how much she admires him, which infatuates him.

As the trailer suggests, Joker is put on trial for the murder of Murray Franklin and the insurrection he unleashed on Gotham City. However, Joker’s romantic relationship with his fellow patient improves his behavior within Arkham State Hospital, which might allow him to be reconsidered for release, and possibly to have his legal charges dropped in court. This process seems to be a televised event for all of Gotham, as a crowd gathers to support Joker, and Harley Quinn seemingly arrives as a witness. Also following the trailer’s narrative, Harley may play a key role in Joker’s newfound freedom.

Beyond Harley Quinn’s role in Joker’s redemption, it’s clear that she also exacerbates his altered perception of reality. After all, the literal meaning of Joker: Folie à Deux‘s title is “madness for two,” and the trailer confirms that Harley admires Joker’s questionable actions. It seems that Harley infects Joker with her passion for music, and Joker motivates Harley to unleash her darkest desires. Together, Joker and Harley seem to magnify each other’s instability, which can only end in chaos for themselves and tragedy for others. In this sense, Joker’s negative influence on Harley is faithful to Harley’s traditional origin story.

How Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn Origin Differs From Other Versions

Joker: Folie À Deux Flips Harley Quinn’s Original Relationship With The Joker

Lady Gaga walking up the stairs during a protest as Harley Quinn in Joker 2

Harley Quinn was an original creation by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, designed specifically for Batman: The Animated Series. Therefore, Harley’s introduction in the 1992 episode “Joker’s Favor” is the original source material for every subsequent version of the character. Shortly after Harley’s animated series debut, Timm and Dini collaborated on the comic book The Batman Adventures: Mad Love, which revealed Harley’s origin: clinical psychologist Harleen Frances Quinzel falls in love with her patient, Joker, who recruits her as his right-hand ally and pulls her into a life of crime.

Harley Quinn was based on actor Arleen Sorkin, the first actor to ever voice the character in Batman: The Animated Series.

Every following iteration of Harley Quinn has drawn inspiration from Batman: The Animated Series. DC Comics has expanded Harley Quinn’s backstory, with her background as a gymnast and a thriving career in criminal psychology. The comics also underlined Harleen Quinzel’s rebirth as Harley Quinn through a chemical bath in the same Ace Chemical plant where Joker created his evil persona. After Batman: The Animated Series and DC Comics’ iterations of Harley rose to massive popularity, Margot Robbie’s DCEU Harley Quinn covered all these points accurately, and the Harley Quinn animated show used it as a basis for the protagonist’s background.

Harley Quinn’s introduction as an Arkham patient is a massive divergence from the source material. However, Harley’s infatuation for Joker after getting to know him at Arkham isn’t too different from her original introduction. Lady Gaga’s unique Harley Quinn also fits this continuity perfectly, as Joker himself is quite a unique take on the iconic DC villain. Just like the name “Arthur Fleck” and his dream of being a comedian are original creations for 2019’s JokerJoker: Folie à Deux‘s changes to Harley Quinn help Joker’s lover resemble him more closely.

Joker 2’s Harley Quinn Origin Avoids Some Of The Problematic Aspects Of Their Relationship

Harley Quinn’s New Origin Story Avoids A Problematic Part Of Joker’s History

Joker Folie à Deux promo featuring Harley Quinn and Arthur Fleck standing in the dark

Another important part of Harley Quinn and Joker’s 30-year history is their troubled relationship. Most, if not all, versions of the Joker have treated Harley like a pawn despite her genuine feelings for him, and her affection hasn’t been corresponded. For this reason, Harley Quinn has gained independence from the Joker, and her quest to leave him behind has become a central part of her story. In the DCEU, Birds of Prey follows Harley Quinn’s post-break-up journey, and the Harley Quinn animated series centers around Harley’s own adventures as she rises through the ranks of Gotham’s supervillains by herself.

Whether Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker becomes abusive towards Lady Gaga’s Harley Quinn in Joker: Folie à Deux is yet to be known. However, Joker’s manipulation of Harley Quinn’s feelings during his therapy sessions are not part of their story in Todd Phillips’ Joker sequel, and it seems like Joker and Harley’s relationship is healthy, at least towards each other. The absence of Joker and Harley Quinn’s traditional power imbalance opens the door for a true criminal duo in Joker: Folie à Deux, though that doesn’t mean that such a close relationship will result in a happy ending.

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