This is not the hottest take, but I order to make Harley Quinn more adult, more mature, don’t dress her in skimpier clothing. Make her a real character. Show us that the Joker is a capricious (psychological) abuser and that she’s desperate for his attention and approval. Show us how she’s a victim and a creator of victims. Show us how she’s weak. Show us how she’s powerful. Show us how she’s flawed.
I woke up with this fic in my head, but see thread. I’ll do the rest unlisted to avoid spam.
Harley surveyed her wardrobe. It wasn’t a really wardrobe on account of her and Mr. J we’re currently holed up in an abandoned toy factory. In fact, it was a steel pipe suspended from two steel poles held up by car wheels.
But that was fine by her because it was all the best clothes: every single item was a red and black jumpsuit, fitted just a bit at the waist with a bit of lace at the ankles and wrists with a wide, spiky collar like a jester at the throat.
She’d already painted her face, so she slipped into her costume, donned her jester hat (for a while, she’d pinned up her hair, but now she kept it short and it was _so_ much less hassle), slapped on her domino mask and left her room with a spring in her step.
Outside, Mr. J was lounging and scheming in one of his great purple and green suits. He was scheming, she could tell: his long, lanky legs were up on the table, he was tipped back in a chair and he absently sucked on a lollipop with a distant look in his eyes and a slight smirk.
“Mornin’, Mista J,” Harley said and went to grab a bowl of cereal. Mr. J didn’t reply. Holding the empty bowl and box, her heart fell. She put them down and walked around to him.
“Mr. J,” she said more loudly to get his attention, “Is… is there somethin’ I could do? Somethin’ I could change to… uh…” She faltered, not wanting to beg him out loud to love her. “Maybe if I dressed differently? Showed a little… ah?” She pointed at her chest and upper thigh, “Or grew my hair out? Pig tails? Like a… like a naughty school girl?”
“Oh, Harley,” Mr. J said in his joyful lilting voice, swinging her into his lap with an avuncular chuckle and cupping her face gently in his hand, “There’s nothing you could do to make me love you _more_!”
Then his mood turned. She spotted it in his eyes the moment before he squeezed her face too hard and smeared her perfect flat white paint. “On the other hand,” he said much lower and like gravel, almost as an aside rather than to Harley, “There’s _nothing_ you could do to make me love you more.” He pushed her face away and stood up, nearly dumping her straight on the floor. He strolled off to do something else entirely, cackling to himself.
“Oh,” said Harley to the empty room, “OK.”
In my head, this scene is voiced by Mark Hamill and Tara Strong. Hamill’s tonality is key, I feel.
I can't find the actual article, but I remember reading one that seemed to describe a more realistic portrayal of her in one of the computer games.
https://www.gamecrate.com/evolution-harley-quinn-through-video-games/18545 is not that article, but it does seem to show some of that development in the games.