Every Halloween there is that one popular costume, the pop culture reference point for the year. Elbow your way through the crowd at any club night or house party and you’ll see a familiar sea of women dressed in that year’s film reference. There are YouTube tutorials on how to do the makeup, blog posts on favourite adaptations, and every costume shop will have some version or other on their shelves. A few years ago it was Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy, and a few years before that I noticed more than the usual Alices in Wonderland. Alongside every woman posting a photo of her own take on the theme, there are a dozen haters commenting on how “unoriginal” her idea is, and how sick they are of seeing yet another lass dressed as the same thing as hundreds of other people.
This year the most popular costume seems to be Harley Quinn, no doubt related to the release of the new Suicide Squad movie a few months ago. The SS Harley has a bit of a different aesthetic to the original DC comics, with long blonde hair in bunches dipped in pink and blue rather than the more traditional harlequin red and black, so I asked my favourite Harley expert Emily from Frankly Ms Shankly for a bit of background on both the character and the costume.
The original Harley Quinn started off as a member of Joker’s gang of villains in “Batman: The Animated Series”, with no more screen time that any of his other cohorts. The character had a goofy and fun side which appealed to viewers, but also a complex and tragic backstory. Due to her popularity with fans she was given a larger part in the series and later her own platform in her own comics. This latest SS film was the first live action adaptation in which the character of Harley Quinn has been featured and named, so she wasn’t quite mainstream to anyone who didn’t watch the animated series in the 90s. Harley is often paired with the Joker in a dysfunctional, controlling and abusive relationship, though the character’s bisexuality is canon and she has been paired romantically with Poison Ivy. She is not just Joker’s sidekick, she is a multi-faceted character in her own right.
I am quite honestly sick and tired of people who brand women who choose to dress up as Harley as “basic white girls” or lacking in originality. I mean, first and foremost, Halloween is meant to be FUN. I take more issue with the misguided folks who tag pictures of Harley and Joker as #RelationshipGoals, as if their cute outfits and how they “look” together can erase the actual abusive nature of their partnership. Yes, it’s a popular costume choice. I personally think I would look great in the original Harley costume in red and black, and I have seen so many lassies looking cute as hell in their interpretation of her outfit. Suicide Squad was one of the most hyped up movies of the year, and regardless of whether you liked it or not, it broke Box Office records. Harley’s new look has become on of the most popular cosplay costumes in recent memory, with photos of people dressed as the SS version of her before the film was actually released in cinemas. Margot Robbie’s portrayal was likeable, witty, and pretty badass. So who wouldn’t want to dress up like her?
I’ve noticed that though there is nearly as much of an influx in Joker costumes, no one is really having a dig at all the men who have decided they want to look like Jared Leto’s supervillian, or even the more traditional purple-suited Joker from the comics. If every woman and her puppy is dressing as Harley Quinn, it seems every man is browsing the costume shops for that perfect Joker costume. Yet rather than backlash, there’s…nothing. No one tweeting that we should drink a shot every time we see a man in a Joker costume at Halloween, or making jokes about “basic” white dudes. In fact when has that term ever been used when referring to men at all? Can you say double-standard?
Why are we comparing the women who choose to dress like Harley? Why do people even care? Halloween is a time to dress up as someone we are not, and when it comes down to it, that is exactly what every woman who is dressing up as Harley Quinn (or whichever character is popular that year) is doing. Shaming someone for the costume they choose to wear on Halloween is just as problematic and inappropriate as sending girls home from school for the length of their skirt or shaming women for how they dress EVERY OTHER DAY OF THE YEAR.
So this Halloween, wear what you feel fabulous in, whether your costume is the popular choice for the year or something less mainstream. Be whoever you want to be, in costume and in everyday life. Above all have an amazing time. No one’s opinion on YOUR outfit counts but your own.