I spent the weekend at my first convention since “Suicide Squad” came out, and I noticed something: There were a lot of children dressed as Harley Quinn. Now, if you’ve ever been to a convention, you know this is not surprising. Harley is one of the most popular cosplays out there. She’s been a fan favorite since she first appeared in “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992. There have been endless discussions about her. Personally, I’m a fan. The thing that gives me pause is seeing a bunch of girls as young as six wearing fishnets, booty shorts and jackets that say, “Property of the Joker.”
As creepy as it was, I was also very conflicted about writing this. Who am I, especially as someone with no children, to judge what someone wants to wear as a costume? Certainly I write often about body image and being comfortable with whatever you want to wear. Did I have a problem with little girls and boys dressing up as the Joker, or as earlier versions of Harley? No. Other villains? Not at all. Serial killers? Nope. As a kid, I probably would have wanted to dress up as movie Harley as well. It’s a cool character design and not very difficult to pull off at a con. So, why does this bother me?
First let me say that I’m absolutely not condemning parents (or the kids for that matter) for dressing this way. I’m mostly writing this to find out why I’m so uncomfortable with it, when being uncomfortable goes against everything I usually stand for.
So, here’s what I’ve come up with: It’s not the fishnets. It’s not the booty shorts. It’s “Property of the Joker” that’s getting me. Look, I have the jacket that says the very same thing. As I said, I’m a fan of the character. But there is something about seeing little girls dressing up as the “property” of someone that jars me.
I guess when you see a kid dressing up as a serial killer, you think, ‘Well, there aren’t that many of those.’ When you see a little Joker, you think, ‘Well, the likelihood is you won’t end up in a place like Arkham Asylum.’ I mean, it could happen, but it probably won’t. And it’s not that I think that wearing a costume makes you like a character any more than I think loving video games or horror movies makes you violent. I do all of those things and I can’t even kill a bug.
I think the problem is that domestic violence is so prevalent in our society. The misogyny women deal with online and in their real lives is an epidemic. The statistics are heartbreaking. I spoke with one person at the con whose mother had dealt with domestic violence, who said it was upsetting because so many of these girls will have to deal with this in the future.
So the conclusion I’ve come to is this: It isn’t the costume or the character that are upsetting. It’s how many of these little girls will have something in common with her one day.