Harley Quinn Takes Center Stage

 Using social data to chart the rise of a movie fan favorite

image courtesy of DC Comics

In the dangerous world of DC Comics, Harley Quinn has long been relegated to the role of Joker’s sidekick. But with the release of Warner Brother’s “Suicide Squad” film this year, Harley’s taken center stage. Why is her character resonating with today’s audiences? What do they like about Harley, and what did it take to bring her out of the shadows and into the limelight?
In this post we’ll analyze social media conversation around “Suicide Squad” to see how Harley Quinn went from supporting comic book character to movie fan favorite.
Anticipation Rises
The story begins with the trailer. The movie’s first trailer exploded onto the movie scene in early July with a leaked release, forcing Warner Bros. to share the trailer ahead of schedule. From there, we can see the spikes throughout the year in line with other trailers or sneak peak releases. Overall, leading up to the film’s release, the excitement and discussion grew steadily until the movie debuted on August 5th.
Below, we can see that the Suicide Squad actual movie release did not garner as much attention as the initial launch of the first trailer promoting the film.
Suicide Squad -- Volume trend from 2015-07-01 to 2016-08-04 (1)
Diving into the topic wave data, we see that over the last year, Harley Quinn is the most discussed character associated with the movie. Joker and Superman discussions followed closely as other major discussions associated with the Suicide Squad release, as fans speculated what characters would have cameos and major parts within the movie.
Suicide Squad Topic Waves from 2015-07-01 to 2016-07-01

But why did Harley Quinn become the center of the Suicide Squad movie discussions? What is it about this character that spurred over 4.4 million posts in the last year? We decided to figure out why people were obsessing about Harley Quinn by analyzing the major topics of conversation within the overall Harley chatter.
Harley Quinn Won Our Hearts
First, what are social media users saying? What are the questions that keep coming up when referencing Harley?
Suicide Squad Weekly Opinion analysis trend from 2015-07-01 to 2016-08-04
One of the top conversations, which only grew as the release approached, was the love and admiration for Margot as Harley. Another growing area of interest was the Cosplay representation as the movie approached. The Suicide Squad attended ComiCon both last year and this, so excitement and fandom has grown over the last 12 months leading up to the movie release.
The plot and story arc of Harley’s character was also called into question over the course of the last year and a half. Harley Quinn’s relationship with Joker has always been described as abusive. Comic book lovers old and new have focused on this aspect of Harley Quinn’s characterization over the last few months, whether it’s demonstrating how her character is more relatable than some of the other villains in the DC universe or recommending her leaving the Joker’s abusive clutches.

What Else Do Harley Quinn Fans Care About?
On Twitter, audience interests display a strong affinity for the comic book genre. There’s a clear passion for similar films and authors in the genre, such as Star Trek and Alan Moore. One of the interesting segments of Twitter audiences is their tie to wrestling as a sport. Suicide Squad fans are 3 times more interested in the WWE than the average Twitter user. Overall, these conversations are a more niche portion of the overall Twitter discussion, as the bubbles are smaller across all comic categories.
HQ Affinities from 2015-07-01 to 2016-08-04 HQ Affinities Harley Quinn vs. Tumblr
As opposed to the Twitter discussion, Tumblr audiences are hardcore comic-loving bunch, so a huge sector of general conversation of Tumblr users (demonstrated by the size of the bubbles) are interested in comic books. One of the more pronounced and unique aspects of this conversation was the feminist recognition for Harley Quinn’s storyline. This seems be a prevalent piece of the overall conversation, as users are both concerned about the abusive nature of Harley’s relationship to the Joker, and empathetic to for her character.
Fan art was also a huge segment of the overall Harley conversation, with graphics (below), gifs, comic book pages, as well as artistic renderings. This displays the connection audiences have to her character—another example of the relatability of Harley Quinn.
Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 2.12.11 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 2.11.44 PM Screen Shot 2016-08-05 at 4.45.21 PM
Overall, social data indicates that Harley Quinn won over comic book fans with her empathetic plot line and through Margot Robbie’s winning performance of the character. It seems the femme fatale is the best chance to continue the hyper of the Suicide Squad franchise moving forward. Social media tells us that fans are already looking for more screen time for Harley Quinn.
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