Look, on the surface, I realize that Bane from HBO Max’s Harley Quinn is not everyone’s “type.” The ’roided-up luchador can often be petty and ineffectual, and his main hobby is blowing things up. (As he’d put it, he loves ’splosions.) Also, he’s technically a villain—and a cartoon.
So why, dear reader, do I swoon at the mere sight of this Batman villain’s little masked head and his big, stupid muscles? Not since Kovu in The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride has anyone been this horrendously thirsty for a cartoon! As with most Harley Quinn characters, there’s a real human streak underpinning Bane’s antics, loud and absurd as they might seem. In spite of all his muscles, Bane might, in fact, be the most vulnerable “villain” of them all. And what can I say? Big baddies with a fragile streak have always been my reckoning.
I’ll admit that my man is something of an acquired taste. This, after all, is a character who wants to blow up a smoothie shop cashier for constantly getting his name wrong. He’s a supposed “supervillain” whose own friends in the Legion of Doom refuse to take him seriously. (Although, are they even really his friends?) And in Season 3, which premiered Thursday, Bane is so busy obsessing over a pasta maker he bought for a wedding that he barely notices Gotham descending into mayhem around him.
To some, these might be turn-offs. But in a town full of megalomaniacs, it’s kinda refreshing to meet someone who spends all his time bogged down with trivial grievances.
Perhaps I should be discussing this with my therapist, but there’s something bizarrely sympathetic about a big, puffed-up villain who no one takes seriously. With his giant, clumsy hands and his deep, incomprehensible voice, the Bane seen in Harley Quinn is the sitcom version of the traditional, imposing villain once played by Tom Hardy. Comedian and voice actor James Adomian’s take on the character satirizes Hardy’s Dark Knight Rises performance, but also delivers something more insecure, more human. This Bane has no grand plan; ironically for someone his size, he’s just trying to get people to stop walking all over him.
While the Bane of The Dark Knight Rises struck fear into the hearts of Gotham by blowing up an entire stadium, no one would believe for a second that this Bane would ever pull off something like that. Instead, Harley Quinn’s Bane only threatens to do so after getting a football question wrong at bar trivia in Season 1. It’s a threat so empty that no one bats an eye. The bottom line? This is a supervillain whose credit card declines when he tries to buy a bomb, and in the year of our lord 2022, I simply cannot think of a better metaphor than that for the human condition.
And while he might not be much of a supervillain, this animated Bane does have a gift with open, emotional communication. What’s sexier than that?
“And while he might not be much of a supervillain, this animated Bane does have a gift with open, emotional communication. What’s sexier than that?”
The best Bane-centric Harley Quinn episode by far remains Season 2’s “There’s No Place to Go but Down”—in which Harley and her BFF-GFF Poison Ivy find themselves sentenced to hard time in Bane’s underground prison. In this version of the story, Bane runs the place—and he’s got inmates working through their aggression issues using art therapy. A poster hanging in the cell depicts the wrestler himself hanging from a branch like the kitten in those inspirational posters. “Hang In There!”
Although Bane’s presence this season feels limited, we do get a little insight into his mental and emotional state. The verdict? He, like many of us, is barely “hanging in there.” He’s ordering almost every meal from Big Belly Burger, stocking up on hard seltzer, and trolling eBay for Sex and the City costume auctions. After a painful moment on the phone with a bank teller who gleans that Bane might be depressed from his purchase history alone, the villain pulls a Carrie Bradshaw: “I couldn’t help but wonder,” he says, “was the teller telling the truth? Was I depressed? Maybe my identity had been stolen—by myself.”
Which brings me to my final point about why Bane should be our 2022 dream man: He’s got a standing therapy appointment on Wednesdays. An emotionally aware man whose chief failing in life is not being good at villainy? Maybe the horrendous prospects I keep finding on Tinder have permanently damaged my standards, but I have to say… if this guy lived within my radius, I’d swipe right—even if it does mean hearing about that damned pasta maker until the end of time.