A/N: I just want to preface this by saying that I am a feminist, I believe in equal rights and I most certainly believe a person should be able to dress how they please. However, there is a problem with the way some female characters have been handled in the media, especially in films etc. This is just my open ended review of Suicide Squad and some thoughts on it.
While, I believe a woman should dress how she wants, it is becoming a running trope that the female superheros or villains are unnecessarily sexualized, for example, having them in clothing that is more revealing compared to her male co-leads – especially, in scenes where it just does not fit what is happening – a battle, for example.
Suicide Squad hasn’t been getting the best reviews as of yet, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. At first, I’ll be honest, I was apprehensive, worried about the things that I’d heard. But I was surprisingly and thankfully proved wrong, it was bright, colourful; intense and action packed, with a dark, twisted edge to it, which was brought to the surface wonderfully by Harley Quinn and the Joker. The film sets up the characters quite well, I did enjoy seeing each of their backgrounds, their stories came to life in harrowing, strange flashbacks and stayed that way throughout the action, an undercurrent for the audience to feast on while the action swept them up in a fast paced, never ending story line.
To see a few familiar faces (that being cameos by certain characters), was fun. The film itself, aside from the gore and disturbing torture scenes, was fun, in an oddly morbid way. These are characters you wouldn’t otherwise root for and yet, in this film, you do. No matter what their past crimes were, it leaves you feeling slightly unnerved. The one character I came away loving the most (as you’ve all probably seen), was Harley Quinn. I absolutely loved her. She was eccentric and hilarious, radiant and dark, evil and kind, in her own strange way she stands by her friends, tormented by her old love, constantly conflicted with their abusive and brutal relationship, but in the end, it is her loyalty to her friends that wins, over that of the Joker.
In regards to the portrayal of women, I found that with Harley Quinn, it wasn’t to demean her, it was yes, to explore the fact that women can wear what they want – but also challenged those that have a problem with that and highlighted the way people react to a free, expressive woman. Not to degrade her, but to battle the notion that a woman should be a certain way. This film highlights society’s negativity surrounding female sexuality and body image, the gawking women receive, the comments and looks, to bury them and say, ‘fuck you, this is me’, and whatever anyone says about Harley Quinn, she is true to herself.
And that’s an important message for women, that though she was strung along by the Joker, falling for his charm, she did not become his object, his toy. No, she was his equal, his partner, and he did not own her. She owned herself, her body and her somewhat fragmented mind.
If there was any question about her sense of person, this film helped to clear that up. Harley Quinn does not belong to the Joker, she may love him and he may love her, they’d die for one another, kill for one another, probably kill each other, but while he’s running around after her, she’s her own person, and he’s the puppy chasing after his love, not the other way around.
However, I will say – sexualizing women in films and TV shows has been a long and brutal battle for those against it – the constant need to sexualize a person, in a situation where it is clearly not necessary and there just to objectify and ridicule a person, should not be there at all.
If you are to sexualize women, then do the same for men (or at least, to the same level). If not, then stop it. For both sides of the coin, no one should be objectified and gawked at because of their appearance and mostly importantly, without their consent.
Being expressive and free, much like Harley is a right that everyone has. A right that a person themselves consents to, that is not the problem. The problem starts when it issomeone else making another dress or act a certain way, for no reason at all.
The problem with this, is that in most tropes, if a woman is dressed a certain way, it is not to empower her or brush off sexist views, it is to sexualize and demean her. It is to make her look weak or stupid in comparison to her male co-leads.
Should women be allowed to dress however they want, without judgment? Yes.
What about if she’s the only female lead and she’s made to dress in outfits that make her look silly in comparison to her male co-leads?
If women are to be shown this way, shouldn’t the same happen for men?
Shouldn’t male characters made to dress a certain way be there just for ‘eye candy’, much like the women that are subjected to the same treatment?
Should sexualizing characters stop all together?
When does it become sexualizing, rather than freedom of expression and body image?
Is it sexualizing if in a situation where it clearly does not make sense, or would not be wise/realistic (i.e. the views on the way Wonder Woman was dressed in battle), or is that her own choice and we should respect that?
If so, why isn’t Batman or Superman running into battle in their boxers?
The point being, the act of unwarranted, unneeded sexualizing of a character is something that makes my skin crawl – seeing a female lead objectified, solely on the fact that she’s a woman, while all the men in her life aren’t dressed as so – it’s something that doesn’t sit well with me.
That being said, if she’s dressed in whichever way (perhaps, like Harley) and has no problem with it, works it and owns it, it does not demean her, or justify another’s actions towards her, then that is empowering.
That is saying – what does it matter what I’m wearing? The way I’m dressed is not an answer for the way you react.
In other words, a woman’s clothing does not justify sexual harassment, assault or rape.
And that is something, I believe, Harley’s character helps to question – she may choose to dress however she pleases, not to gain the attention of her male peers (she openly asks ‘what?’ when they look at her getting dressed), but to make herself happy.