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The Arkham Sessions, Ep. 57: “Harley and Ivy”

The Arkham Sessions, hosted by Dr. Andrea Letamendi and Brian Ward, is a weekly podcast dedicated to the psychological analysis of Batman: The Animated Series. Nostalgic, humorous, and even a little educational, each episode promises to lend some insight into the heroes, villains, and classic stories of the Dark Knight!

The Arkham Sessions, Ep. 57: “Harley and Ivy”

Why do we stay with people who hurt us? Why are so-called “toxic” relationships sometimes the hardest ones to leave? And, what can we do when those relationships become too dangerous for our psychological or physical well-being? In this episode of The Arkham Sessions, we spend some time reviewing one of the most psychologically relevant episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, “Harley and Ivy.”  

It’s an episode that deals with feminism, sexism, and power differentials, one that allows us to deconstruct the interpersonal relationships between Harley and Ivy, Harley and The Joker, and Batman and the Joker. As we discuss, there are moments in this episode that appear to celebrate female empowerment and female agency. Poison Ivy takes Harley Quinn under her leaf and attempts to teach her a lifestyle about independence and self-sufficiency. As Ivy claims, “No man will take us prisoner!” It’s an effective literal and symbolic statement about the role of women, whether they’re villains or not.

Yet, despite such strong pro-feminist messages, we’re also faced with several scenes involving the emotional and physical abuse of Harley Quinn, who demonstrates a dependency on her aggressor, The Joker. We didn’t have to do an “analysis” in regards to her treatment — it is inexcusable intimate partner violence and The Joker is a clear perpetrator. The narrative — brilliantly written, we believe– allows us a platform to discuss the Cycle of Domestic Violence and the realities, myths, and complexities of abusive relationships.  We discuss The Joker’s authentic feelings for Harley, asking ourselves if he actually cares for her. We then ask ourselves about our own love affair with The Joker.  Can we separate our adoration of him and his volatile behavior? Can we understand Harley’s loyalty to him, without blaming her for the cyclical nature of her victimization? We admit that there aren’t easy answers to these questions, but we believe it’s worth trying to understand these mixed feelings of love, hatred, loyalty and fear.

If you or someone you know needs help related to intimate partner violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or visit the website, Support, resources, and advice about keeping yourself safe are available 24/7, every day of the year.

Have psychology-related questions about Batman? Write to us via Twitter, @ArkhamSessions, or on Facebook. Or visit our official website.

And, don’t forget to subscribe to The Arkham Sessions on iTunes to get all of the latest episodes!




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