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The Joker seems to care little about anything other than himself (and to some extent, Batman), whereas Harley Quinn is quite literally mad for the Joker.

Has the Joker ever shown any genuine concern or affection towards Harley?

A screenshot from an episode from Justice League animated series, in which Joker is hugging Harley Quinn. There's some balloon visible in the background. A text above the image says: "You don't have to be crazy to be in love", and the bottom text says: "But it helps". Awwwwwwwwwwwww

I would prefer sources, if any, from comics.

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    Only insomuch as it amuses him. ;)
    – krillgar
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 19:18
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    I'm thinking she is actually a case of Stockholm...
    – user70846
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 6:30
  • I just wrote a more helpful alt text for the image, for people who can't see it (visually impaired, low data connection, etc.), whilst keeping the original one as a reaction below it. Feel free to edit the question if you feel there may be a better way to write it.
    – Clockwork
    Commented May 3 at 7:57

8 Answers 8

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Yes. In the October 1999 comic Batman: Harley Quinn, he tries to kill Harley precisely because he is starting to have feelings for her and dislikes this in himself:

panel

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    My reading of that scene is that he was kidding, playing into her wishes for him to care for her, and then cracking up at the end. Is there more to that scene to indicate that he was telling the truth?
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 15:23
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    Great find! But as @Nerrolken mentioned, would be great if there was another scene to prove he was being genuine. But I'll happily accept this for now :)
    – user35594
    Commented Nov 8, 2015 at 0:34
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    The one thing fairly consistent about the relationship in the way it's been written by different creators is that it's an abusive one; the Joker may have legitimate feelings, but he's still abusive to the point of potentially homicidal, just as in real life abusers, but that doesn't stop them from being abusive. I find it amusing that it's one topic Batman and many of his opponents, notably Poison Ivy, agree on: Harley has to get out of that relationship. I laugh at the image of a joint intervention. "Harley, we're not trying to beat the hell out of each other because this is important." Commented Oct 2, 2019 at 17:52
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The relationship between Joker and Harley was always complicated but Joker did feel affection/love for Harley at some point in time and the results were rather contradictory as he tried to kill her.

Per Batman Wikia:

Quinn's relationship with the Joker is one of the most complex and twisted love affairs in comics: as with all people, the Joker is abusive and manipulative towards Harley, but, just as often, there's evidence of camaraderie, playfulness, and genuine affection towards her. She's the only person who's managed to become intimate on such a long term basis with the Joker, who, in turn, displays occasional moments of confusion and discomfort which results in attempts to kill her.

The Iconic Depiction of Harley Quinn
One time, when the Joker realized he had very deeply hidden feelings of love, he sent Harley off in a rocket

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    ...as with all people, the Joker is abusive and manipulative towards Harley... What?
    – Marsh
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 16:02
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    The wording is awkward, but I think it means to say that the Joker is just as abusive and manipulative towards Harley as he is towards anyone else. Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 16:05
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    I'm going to agree with @TheSpooniest, it definitely sounds like it is saying the Joker is abusive to everyone, not that everyone is abusive towards Harley.
    – JPMC
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 17:02
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    I believe that's what's referred to as a dangling participle.
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 0:27
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In The New Batman Adventures episode, Beware the Creeper (this series was the follow-up to Batman: The Animated Series, where Harley Quinn was created), there is one scene where she is standing in a giant pie singing a song to Joker. There were brief flashes of a look that wasn't mocking on Joker's face. I always read that as him realizing he loves her but can't admit it, even to himself.

"Great kid, lousy cook."

I really think Joker can't really admit it to himself that he cares for her. He does, it shows simply because he keeps her around unlike anyone else, but I don't see him understanding how to be in love. Instead, he just wonders why he keeps her when he gets rid of every other henchman he has.

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  • Out of curiosity, was this question linked on some other site? Your answer was the first of two in quick succession.
    – Adamant
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 6:44
  • I'm not aware of another question but it is a question that I've thought about for my own essays about abusive relationships, not to mention Harley is one of my favorite characters. I just typed it up and did a quick web search for "harley pie joker" to get a YouTube link to an example. I thought it was in the same episode as "vroom, vroom" but I didn't have time to look.
    – dmoonfire
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 13:46
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Like most things, this is open to interpretation. Some people want to believe that Joker had feelings for her, others are skeptical that Joker cares much for anyone other than himself. But that's itself is open for interpretation, for example you could say the joker only cares for himself but then you look at Heath Ledgers Joker who didn't even care about himself, that type of Joker would only keep Harley around as an example of what a 'bad day' could do to someone. I think whether or not Joker cares about Harley is dependant on which Joker we're talking about. Excuse any grammar/spelling mistakes my phone sucks.

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  • How does this answer the question? Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 5:04
  • @AlfredoHernández while heavily opinion-based, I feel this does answer the question by arguing there's no single Joker, but multiple versions, and some versions are clearly incapable of love. I agree it would be better if it also provided examples of a Joker that is capable of love, but I think saying "this question is ill defined because there is no single Joker" is a valid answer.
    – Andres F.
    Commented May 3 at 15:11
3

Maybe wasted effort, but I think there is so much going on that isn't being pointed out.

Joker being clinically psychotic, for one. Is someone in his shoes capable of feeling that deep a 'good' emotion? I mean, he is essentially living in an unending psychosis (Quote from his profile on DC Wiki: "He is constantly adapting his personality and his psychosis to respond to the world around him, sometimes a harmless trickster and at others a brutal mass-murderer."), and that's ignoring his sadism and narcissism sprinkled on top of it.

That being said. Though it is possible for Harley to be blindly in love with him, I highly doubt that. This isn't some high school cheerleader that is in love with being in love. This is a mastermind and psychiatrist that worked with Joker during his time in Arkham Asylum. It can be argued that she is deluding herself, but that kind of delusion won't stand up to multiple attempts on her life, not with her intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the mind.

In other words, he can't be in love in the sense we understand it. That's not possible, not in his situation. However, it is possible that he loves her in his own, sick, twisted way and that she understands enough of his inner workings to appreciate that about him. Hence their twisted off-on relationship.

But maybe that's just me fangirling on Harley ^_^

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    Being good with psychology doesn't mean being good at resisting manipulation. People can never see themselves from the outside. That's why so many women fall into abusive relationships and convince themselves to stay in it. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 8:19
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    I think you mean 'so many people', as women aren't the only ones to fall victim to that. And though you may be right, it's less likely with one trained to see the signs and likely immune by exposure. After all, if she worked in an asylum, do you think Joker would be the only one trying to manipulate her? I work with geriatric (elderly, basically) psyche patients. Manipulation is their bread and butter, even without them being consciously aware of it.
    – Fayth85
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 12:26
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    Again, perhaps you are right. It just doesn't extrapolate well. If Joker has this grand an effect for her based solely on her naivety? Then he wouldn't be the only one capable of it. She'd swing from one psychopath to the next, or she'd listen to her best friend (Ivy) at some point and leave him for good. Yes, it is arguable that she's just some smitten kitten, a fly in a spider's web. But that's only if you look at Harley as that type (gullible, manipulable). Given the strength of character she regularly shows (not her criminal record), her track record speaks against the premise.
    – Fayth85
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 12:42
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    And FYI, Joker isn't described that way in canon, but he's a textbook sociopath. This isn't something she wouldn't know, or wouldn't be warned against.
    – Fayth85
    Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 12:44
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    Maybe the answer here is that the writing isn't really consistent. She's displayed in different ways by different writers, as is the Joker. Sometimes their relationship is out-and-out physically abusive, but mostly it's not (AFAIK). But she's definitely not shown as an equal partner. Perhaps that's not realistic or consistent and there's an element of sexism that defaults to displaying the man as the more powerful personality, but that does seem to be how it's displayed. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 14:56
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The reason people ask whether the Joker has any love or affection for Harley is mostly because of the movie Suicide Squad. I honestly loved the movie since it depicted love between them. However, when it comes to the comics itself, I don't think that they will get together. Joker only loves himself and he is just using Harley. He is so twisted, that he wanted to kill Harley because of the feelings he started to have within.

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    I don't think he even loves himself, I think Harley may of been teaching him how to though. That would be the anti-crux in the jokers side so he attacked it. Haven't we all felt like that? Like an artist destroying a relationship because it was quenching his fire when they realise they are worthy of love and they don't have anything else to prove to the world.
    – Chris
    Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 17:50
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    This answer can benefit from referencing Commented Dec 17, 2016 at 18:02
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This highly depends on the continuity.

In the DCAU, their relationship was mostly that of an unrequited love from Harley towards Joker and he was very abusive towards her, as he was with almost all his henchmen. And on some occasions, it almost feels like what he likes is the role, rather than the person behind it.

In the episode Harley and Ivy, when Harley dared to question the Joker's authority about possibly being a better crook than he is, she literally got thrown into the trash. But later on, when he learned that she never came back to him and instead partnered up with Poison Ivy to become "The New Queens of Crime", he was clearly unhappy about it.

So he proceeded to locate Harley during a phone call before finding Harley and Ivy's hideout. And while their reunion may seem cute at first with the Joker saying sweet words, it becomes clear that he was referring to the jewels she was carrying in a bag of recently stolen goods, rather than Harley herself.

On another note, in episode Joker's Millions, although it starts with the Joker gang being in a financially dire situation, he ended up learning that he had inherited a fortune from King Barlowe after his demise (although we later on learn that it was a setup). In the meantime, Harley had been captured and thrown into Arkham Asylum during their last skirmish with Batman. While she was still captive, she learned about him becoming rich, and guessed that he was going to bail her out soon. But instead, he figured it would be cheaper to hire a new Harley than to mount a rescue operation to save the real Harley from Arkham. In the end, he ended up picking an actress that physically looks as close as possible to the initial one (although he believed he should have picked the fat guy) instead:

But the one episode that shows his abuse towards her the most is episode Mad Love in which Harley tells us the story of how she met the Joker and went from Dr. Harleen Quinzel to becoming Harley Quinn. Despite all her good intentions, the Joker was unhappy with her behaviour and he ended up pushing her out of a window from a multi-storey building:

At the very end of the episode, right when she was about to give up the mantra for good, she noticed a flower with a note from Joker, wishing her to get well soon, and that's all it took for her to resume falling in love with him.

However, in the comics, in Superman: Emperor Joker, the Joker had acquired part of Mxyzptlk's power of reality bending, which effectively turned him into a mad god. At the end of the story, when he threatened to destroy reality itself, Harley asked him if he could do something for her, for all her years of loyalty towards him, and he ended up agreeing, turning her into a constellation (which means she's dead, but it's still an act of affection in a way).

A picture from the aforementioned comics, in which the Joker used his reality bending power to turn Harley Quinn into a constellation before destroying the world. He addresses her: "... You get the best seat in the house for Armageddon. Say goodnight, Harley."

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  • This is more of an answer for the question asked in the title, than the question asked at the end of asker's post.
    – Clockwork
    Commented May 3 at 7:50
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I believe that since joker was so badly abused as a kid, that he only knows one kind "Affection". and because of how messed up joker is and psychotic, there are a lot of reasons as to why he is they way he is towards Harley. that being said, he has probably seen how his father treated his mother and only knows that type of love and doesn't realize how horrible he is to Harley. there are a lot of reasons and it isn't clear as to whether or whether not he has feelings for Harley. But if he does, he doesn't want to. People who grow up under such harsh circumstances have troubles with emotions and it's just a really messed up situation.

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    Do we know that Joker was abused as a kid, and that his father abused his mother? I was under the impression that Joker had so many (deliberately) conflicting backstories that we don't actually know anything about his past at all.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented May 2, 2019 at 7:01

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