Tag Archives: Harley Quinn

DCEU: Writing to the Negative Space

15 May

Some friends and I were having a conversation about Batman v Superman recently, and the topic turned to the Robin suit that is seen in the batcave, along with the mention of Harley Quinn being involved with the death of Robin in Suicide Squad.

While a lot of people feel that the Robin story should have been explored a lot more, I took a different approach to this. The way I see it, the Robin story is doing exactly what it should be doing. It’s occupying the negative space of the story. The characters on screen are influenced by what happened, they’re circling that story and feeling that story, while not directly addressing it on screen. And this is an important lesson.

Too often, writers will feel that they have to explain everything to the audience. Doing this comes at a price. Rather than creating a world that is full of lives and stories that inform the people that we’re seeing on screen, they are creating a narrow story that only exists within the limited view that we see.

Robin tells us that Batman has lived a life. He has been fighting this war for a long time, and he has seen some horrible days. We know that Batman isn’t just brooding and angry because of the loss of his parents when he was a child. He is struggling because no matter how hard he fights and how many times he puts criminals in prison, it never ends. Fighting that war doesn’t bring his parents back and it doesn’t stop Robin from dying.

Without that suit, Batman is just angry and brooding because he’s Batman. He’s dark for the sake of being dark. By not directly showing us that Robin story, it doesn’t become about just that one thing. It becomes a lifetime of struggle, rather than moments of struggle. Sometimes, being specific and showing everything only serves to lessen the impact.

Because of that Robin suit, we can imagine Batman’s whole career. Those of us who know the comics are picturing Dick Grayson out in the world as Nightwing, and Barbara Gordon as Batgirl (both of whom have potential movies in the works). We know that Jason Todd died, so without even seeing those other characters on screen, we can imagine their relationship with Batman and where it stands right now. The Robin suit created a world.

And moving over to Harley Quinn, we see that world rippling out. The reference to her participation in Robin’s death is so brief that most probably didn’t even notice it when it flashed on the screen, but we see that event influencing her, even in the Suicide Squad movie. When she tells El Diablo to own up to the messed up stuff that he’s done, she isn’t just talking about him. That’s a hint of Harleen Quinzel right there. The great thing about Harley Quinn is that she’s not the essence of evil that Joker is. She has a lot of different layers. She has moments of good, and moments of bad. She can be brilliant, or dim.

The dead Robin, who was never seen on screen, is having a huge impact on different characters within the DCEU. I find this subtle touch really interesting.

 

Feel free to leave a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree. If Robin was supposed to be this large of an influence, should he have been seen in a proper flashback? Or do our imaginations fill in the blanks in a way that flashbacks couldn’t?

 

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