“That just proves he wants me back”: Pure victimhood, agency, and intimate partner violence in Gotham City Sirens


Shelley Barba, & Joy Perrin (Eds.)

Document Type

Book Section

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Publication Title

The Ascendance of Harley Quinn: Essays on DC's Enigmatic Villain.


McFarland & Company

Publisher Location

Jefferson, NC

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This paper investigates how Harley Quinn’s relationship with the Joker in Gotham City Sirens disseminates discourses of victimhood, agency, and intimate partner violence (IPV) to readers. Like women in the real world, women in comics have not been given the recognition they deserve and are often only created as auxiliary characters to their male counterparts. Madrid argues that when compared to male superheroes, female superheroes’ strengths and agility have been overshadowed by plotlines concerning romance (vi). Miczo argues that “superheroines fail to reach their potential when they are placed in situations that make salient negative female stereotypes (e.g., that females are fragile, hysterical, and catty)” (171). Stabile explains that being a heroine implies less agency than that of a hero because comics that focus on the visual aspect of the protagonist depict men as having bodies that are strong, unbreakable, and able to prevail against any evil, whereas female bodies are represented as breakable and easily obtainable as an object of desire (89). In essence, heroes have more agency because the male anatomy is perceived to be stronger than that of a heroine. However, being depicted as having less agency than their male counterparts, the physical strength and extraordinary abilities of these women bestow them with an a priori notion of agency where they are expected to have the self-determination and physical ability to protect themselves and others.