Simply put, what helped me cement my affection for all things geeky was the fact that Harley Quinn was one of my first female action characters that was not flashing her breasts or buttocks. As a kid, seeing scantily clad ladies in comic book pages made me feel uncomfortable and I avoided superhero genres all together. I am older now, not as intimidated by the flesh as I once have been, but the portrayal of women through a man’s eyes still disagrees with me.
There have been discussions about the time and place for the need of sex appeal in a story. If a man cannot be taken seriously in a teeny tiny costume, chances are, their female counterparts are not going to be taken seriously either. Megan Rosalarian Gedris wrote about it and Jess Fink perfectly assembled the thought into a compact sentence: “Women aren’t asking for sexuality to be stripped from comics, we are just asking for characters that make sense to the story they are in.”
And wouldn’t you know it, DC just happens to release the first promo shot of Harley Quinn in her new design for the universe reboot. Perfect timing to discuss this.
I’ve had my fair share of complaints concerning Harley’s wardrobe over the past couple of years, what with the Arkham Asylum games and the stage arena show. But little did I know that this would happen. It doesn’t work on many levels. I get that DC is trying to go for a anime/manga influenced design with the over all dripping-sex-in-an-itty-bitty costume but come on! We all know her breasts are going to topple out even by a little hop and her labia will be exposed if she does a split kick. Harley is an acrobat and you wouldn’t expect someone with such technique to perform in these garments. There’s the issue of chaffing for one thing and doing fast actions with a pair of breasts is actually bothersome! Not to mention, the whole shrunken corset and booty short combo is overplayed and that cape is bound to get caught while she’s doing crime. And let’s not even try to figure out the footwear because it’s probably some sort of stiletto heel.
Another design issue is while the original costume may be ‘too conservative’ (not) for modern tastes, the classic outfit described Harley perfectly in a simple and effective manner. I personally know many people who aren’t familiar with her character but they immediately recognize her as the ‘clown girl’ and automatically assume she uses gags to commit a felony. If I took the above image and asked these same people who this woman was, chances are I will get something along the lines of Hot Topic, The Crow and Insane Clown Posse. That and she probably sacrifices black cats because she is so dark and demented. She is near impossible to recognize other than the diamond motif and even that isn’t very prevalent.
The wonderful thing about Harley’s original design is that it’s inviting, welcoming even. If you saw her on the street, you wouldn’t expect her to suddenly draw out a gun and steal all your money. The general public would be won over with her megawatt grin until her mallet knocked them unconscious. If you put the new Harley in a city, people would start asking if Marilyn Manson was shooting a new music video, pedestrians would avoid her all together and the police would be called. She’s more intimidating and easily more suspicious than the original.
Take it from someone who has dressed up as her and I’m sure that other Harley Quinn cosplayers can testify for this as well: one of the greatest things about wearing the jester suit is that people automatically gravitate toward you. It doesn’t even matter if they know you’re the Joker’s girlfriend or not, because there’s almost always a smile on someone’s face when you walk by. I’m sure it’s the same for Harley-the-character which makes it even more easier for her to distract people while helping Mr. J and his goons carry explosives in a bank. That’s her charm! She may look sweet but if only you knew what her real motives were.
I’m particularly wary of how the female audience will react to this new reboot. Not just from Harley’s radical change but also for the other women characters in DC as well. Granted, there are more ladies partaking in the fandom these days but will this drastic turn still attract the same audience that have long fought for a better and fairer treatment on women characters? Or has DC, even mainstream comics, finally reached the point where female fans will turn their backs and walk away? And what of the new generations of little girls who, like me, don’t want their favorite women characters to be just another object on the front cover?
Don’t get me wrong. I love a little cheesecake now and then but when it’s excessive, it makes my stomach churn. And this is one of those cases.
^Yes to the above commentary! I’m so disappointed that DC gave this a pass. This is not even the same Harley I remember and love.