Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Femme-spiration: Poison Ivy of Batman the Animated Series (1993)

In the 1999 lez film classic But I'm a Cheerleader, the characters are asked by their evil, repressed counselors at conversion therapy to identify the "root" of their queer desire. It's long been a joke with my friends that my own queer (& feminist) root can be traced back to my very favorite childhood cartoon—Batman: the Animated Series—and more specifically, an episode entitled "Harley & Ivy," which features villainesses Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy enjoying vegetarian domestic bliss as they take a stand against "the man."  FYI—you can watch the episode here. Trust me, it's worth it.


BTAS was always dark, largely emerging as one of those cartoons not quite meant for children. This episode is no exception. The Joker, depicted as an emotionally and physically abusive partner to Harley, kicks her out of their gang, and Poison Ivy decides to take her under her wing—to teach her about "good old fashioned female self-esteem." Ivy feeds Harley delicious meals of beet juice and leafy greens, as she teaches her to not be a "doormat." "Let's play with the boys on our terms!" Ivy exclaims as she and Harley pull off a heist at "the outdated sexist mockery" of a local "men's club." Harley is awestruck. "Gee, Red—you got style!" she marvels. I can't help but agree.


From her deep, throaty voice, to those full lips, to that animated red hair that, almost Medusa-like, seems to have a mind of its own to her pink convertible with a license plate that reads "Rose Bud," Poison Ivy and her commitment to undermining patriarchy and nurturing the power of female (romantic) friendships make her the ultimate femme-spiration. The episode has too many good moments to name, but possibly the most memorable is the scene where Ivy and Harley capture Batman and exact their revenge. Batman appears chained to a large wooden board, and the chains are weighed down with various domestic objects (a vacuum cleaner, a mixer, even a hair-dryer, I think). As Ivy kicks him forward, preparing for his untimely demise at the murky depths of her poisonous swamp, she cries:

"Here we have the typical male aggressor, fittingly bound within the ties of female, domestic slavery!"

 

I'm not even kidding. This is the real line. This was my favorite episode of my favorite television show. I was 5.


Unfortunately, the two get shipped back to Arkham together at the episode's end, and though they are together in a women's ward, Harley has gone back to mooning over the Joker. But the magic of the romantic Harley/Ivy relationship endures long beyond the ending of this short cartoon—and Ivy's feminist badassery and great use of the color green to set off those fiery locks ensure that she will always remain a vital source of femme-spiration.


xoxo,

melina

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