Mad Love: A Summary and Description of Psychological Problems

(I originally wrote this for my Abnormal Psychology class)

The following paper is a summary of the events of Mad Love, originally published as The Batman Adventures #12: Mad Love in February 1994. Mad Love was written by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm with Timm providing the primary illustrative work. It is followed by a summary and discussion of the mental issues of the primary character, Harley Quinn.
Mad Love is a story of obsession, lovesickness and ultimately unrequited love. The story tells the origin of the Joker’s partner Harleen Quinzel or Harley Quinn, who after fumbling an attempt to kill Batman, is kicked out of the group in a fit of the Joker’s rage. Instead of seeing the Joker’s lack of true affection for her and his ultimate obsession with killing his enemy, Batman, Quinn blames Batman for the misfortune tossed upon her and plots to destroy him with one of the Joker’s own plots.
The story then shifts as Batman reviews Harley’s past. She was a psychology student who was seeking fame and who was willing to use her sexuality as a tool to ultimately get whatever she wanted. Her biggest goal was to write a pop psychology book on one of the many supervillains in Arkham Asylum and she soon received internship position due to her “good grades.” In reality, Arkham Asylum really acts as a holding cell for the various supervillains of Gotham City and soon Harley is introduced and entranced by the Joker who points out how close her name is to the word “Harlequin”. After their meeting she finds a flower in her office from the Joker, Harley feels that the Joker feels the same feelings for her.
Harley then begins an obsessive quest over the next three months to gain some time for one on one time with the Joker as a patient and due to her dedication; she achieves that privilege despite warnings about the Joker from the rest of the staff. In their first meeting the Joker tells Harley how his father beat him as a child. Feeling sympathetic and thinking that she was breaking through to what makes the Joker tick, she organizes more psychological meetings with the Joker slowly becoming the one analyzing her.
After the Joker breaks out of and is then subsequently returned to prison, Harley, who was suffering without the Joker, decides to break the Joker out of prison for good. By robbing a costume store and taking on the person of Harley Quinn she soon returns to the asylum and the pair bust out of the prison. Harley is mentally hoping to marry the Joker after they kill Batman and then start a family meanwhile the Joker is happy to be out of prison again. The two soon begin a life of crime and incarceration that leads back to the current story.
Quinn ends up sending a video to the Gotham Police under the premise that she worries the Joker is going to go too far and she promises to give herself up to the police if Batman will protect her only for the result to turn into a trap. Batman wakes to find himself in a trap he can’t escape from. The premise of the trap – The Death of 1000 Smiles, is that Batman will be lowered upside down into a tank of piranhas where he will be eaten alive. The reason for being hung upside is so that the piranhas will seem to smile since they normally seem to frown.
Batman convinces Harley that the Joker will only believe that she killed Batman if he is there during his demise. Batman then asks what stories the Joker told Harley to gain her trust explaining that the Joker has lied to other people about his abusive past, which Harley refuses to believe. Harley calls the Joker, who is missing her because she kept the place tidy and clean, only to be horrified that she has captured his enemy fearing emasculation if his hench-woman were to kill his nemesis.
Upon reaching the hideout where Harley has Batman, the Joker grows furious as Harley has to explain the joke of her plan and he ends up tossing her out the window where the police find her. Meanwhile the Joker releases Batman from the chains and to him. Batman then reveals that he expected the Joker to not allow anyone else to kill and that was the only way he could escape. Batman then defeats the Joker who disappears before his capture. Meanwhile Harley, after being released from the hospital, decides to give up on the Joker on to return to Arkham to find a flower for her from the Joker and she sees this as a sign that the Joker still loves her.
Ultimately diagnosing Harley is a difficult thing to do because officially romantic obsession or lovesickness is not diagnosed in the DSM. I will note though, that there has been increasing demand though in the psychological community to allow more types of obsession to be allowed into the DSM and there are additionally types of romance afflictions that were previously diagnosed by psychologists due to their being physical and psychological affects. Additionally in the Batman canon Quinn is able to reach some levels of self sufficiency wherein she becomes a fully developed character and villain in her own right, though she does hold a tendency to ally herself with others as opposed to working alone or with just henchmen. For the sake of the paper though I will disregard this information and diagnose simply on mental disorders.
The first step of diagnosing the condition is discerning the symptoms of the character in question. Harley for one dresses in her harlequin costume at all times and even fantasizes about continuing to wear it in old age as it draws attention to her and is part of her. She is frequently consumed with sexual feelings towards the character of the Joker despite there being no fully established cause for romance on his part besides seeing her as a tool to be used. She additionally shows no emotional reservations about hurting other people and can even treat this threatening of other people as a game to play, thus explaining her childlike demeanor towards violence as that attracts attention. She is also frequently laughing while causing violence, which is an example of her being unable to appropriately react to the situation showing a general inability to follow societal norms. Due to the symptoms I would diagnose her with disingenuous histrionic personality disorder.
Disingenuous histrionic personality disorder is a subtype of the histrionic personality disorder diagnosed by Theodore Millon that is essentially histrionic personality disorder combined with antisocial symptoms, both of which are seen in the character of Harley Quinn. Symptoms of histrionic personality disorder according to the DSM-IV-TR 301.50 are as follows.
A pervasive pattern of excessive emotionality and attention seeking, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
• is uncomfortable in situations in which he or she is not the center of attention
• interaction with others is often characterized by inappropriate sexually seductive or provocative behavior
• displays rapidly shifting and shallow expression of emotions
• consistently uses physical appearance to draw attention to self
• has a style of speech that is excessively impressionistic and lacking in detail
• shows self-dramatization, theatricality, and exaggerated expression of emotion
• is suggestible, i.e., easily influenced by others or circumstances
8. considers relationships to be more intimate than they actually are.
Meanwhile antisocial personality disorder symptoms according to the DSM-IV-TR 301.60 are as follows:
A. There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three (or more) of the following: 
1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest 
2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure 

 3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead 

 4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults 

5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others 

6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations 
7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another 
B. The individual is at least age 18 years. 
C. There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years. 
D. The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.
As examples of her symptoms as being histrionic, Harley is seen as being clingy after a bad event attempting to get the Joker’s attention from focusing revenge on Batman. After the failed heist she also attempts to use sex for attention (and priorly used it in her life as a college student). She also talks loudly and in a way that someone as well educated would not using onomatopoeias in her speech. Additionally dresses as a clown for theatricality, she is easily influenced by the Joker and she considers her relationship with the Joker as being more intimate and real than it is. These are more than enough symptoms for her to be counted as being histrionic.
Meanwhile for her antisocial tendencies Harley doesn’t follow the law just by being a criminal and killer. Even before she was officially a criminal when she used sex to improve her grades. Also her entire persona is faked for the purposes of improving her standing in the world because she simply wants to be with the Joker so she invented the Harley Quinn person. To a lesser extent didn’t fully plot out the piranha plan or actually plan it out that well. She was just lucky enough that Batman fell into her trap. She was also unable to foresee the Joker’s reaction to her plan or Batman using her. Harley is very aggressive and reckless by the pure fact that she willingly spends time with a murderer. She also ultimately blames Batman and the police system for her failings showing an inability to blame herself for her actions and she has no problem or morality issues with being a criminal.
Ultimately these problems define her personality, her reasons for her relationship and ultimately her downfall, i.e. being captured again. As such, Quinn’s obsession with the Joker simply exacerbates her problems which due once more to the obsession, will be less likely to be curable.

Bibliography:
Boree, C. G. “Personality Disorders.” My Webspace Files. 2007. Web. 29 Aug. 2011. .
Dini, Paul, and Bruce Timm. “Mad Love.” Batman: Mad Love And Other Stories. 1st ed. New York: DC Comics, 2009. 1-38. Print.
Millon, Theodore. “Personality Subtypes Summary.” The Official Website for Theodore Millon, Ph.D., D.Sc. DICANDRIEN, Inc, 2006. Web. 29 Aug. 2011. .

2 thoughts on “Mad Love: A Summary and Description of Psychological Problems

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *