Harley Quinn Cosplay Case Study

Cosplay is NOT consent

Research and words by Valley Lizard

In my experience, if you go to a convention you’re bound to run into at least one version of Harley Quinn. Even for Margot Robbie, she didn’t realise just how popular Harley was until she got the role and researched for it.

Not only is Harley insane, but she is attractive – even the cast think so.

After watching these videos it’s not hard to understand why people love to cosplay her.

Above is Rosie Roulette in a clever cosplay combining slave Leia, from Star Wars, and Harley Quinn.

Rosie not only cosplays Harley Quinn, but performs as her too. Harley Quinn and the Joker in the DC comics/movies/cartoons are in what, Rosie Roulette calls an ‘abusive’, ‘negative [relationship] and not something most people want to replicate or roleplay with a stranger when they’re in cosplay.’

Did you notice she said you don’t want to replicate it with a stranger? When she performs she has obviously practiced the performance and all parties involved know what to expect. If she and a Joker cosplayer who was a complete stranger posed for a photo it would NOT be okay for him to behave like the Joker – unless he asked and she said yes.

Watch the video above if you want an in depth analysis of the Harley/Joker relationship.

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It may come as a surprise, but this is NOT Harley Quinn. This is Rosie Roulette cosplaying Harley Quinn and she does not want any Joker touching her anywhere she doesn’t want.

Cosplayers aren’t a way for people to achieve their sexual fantasies (however tame) with Harley Quinn. Laura Gilbert came as a guest to Superfest Chile and had a fantastic time, but one Joker (cosplayer) ruined it.

Cosplay is literally short for ‘costume’ ‘play’. Under the costume is a real person playing a role. I believe cosplayers like to be characters who are either similar to them or someone they admire in some way. I’m more of a Marvel than DC fan, however I do admire Harley Quinn. If I ever cosplayed Harley I wouldn’t want to act exactly like her or for people to treat me like her. This can be hard when it comes to children who may not be able to tell cosplay from reality.

I am honestly afraid to cosplay certain characters because I don’t want people to think it gives them permission to do, well anything to me I don’t want them to. After being a Laura Gilbert fan for so long, I almost want to cosplay Harley. What scares me is how people see and treat Harley cosplayers. It’s one of the more negative aspects of cosplay I hope improves with more awareness of the problem. Neither of the women below are really Harley Quinn, despite their amazing cosplay. On the left we have @Ghostgirl_cosplay and on the right we have Kelly Lala (find her on Instagram and Facebook). When Ghostgirl cosplayed Harley this is what happened:

‘I wore this cosplay almost 4 years ago and the attitude behind it was [quite a] bit different back then, I got a lot of unwanted attention and most people would use the line “if you didn’t want the attention you shouldn’t have dressed as ________.”.’

So as you know Birds of Prey is now out at the cinemas. What if I hosted a Harley Quinn themed party and invited (and paid for) a Harley cosplayer to be there? Am I paying someone to lie? What if there’s children there? Isn’t lying to children wrong? Harley Quinn is a violent character. What if the cosplayer is too in character? This is where things get complicated again. Paying a cosplayer to come to an event is technically acting. Those cosplayers could also be called paid actors. Telling a child Harley is coming to their party is very similar to telling a child they’re going to have a photo with Santa Claus. This, I believe, is legal and fine. Personally I am old enough to know the real Harley won’t come to my party (not that I would want her too). If Harley did come to my party it would just be a cosplayer.

I hope this clears some things up. From what I’ve read, so far, in my textbooks the ‘cosplay is not consent’ issue comes under both media law and ethics. Depending on the exact situation it can come under issues to do with: privacy, copyright, sexual harassment, discrimination etc. Some is plain common sense, therefore the safest thing to do is always ask and respect the answer you’re given.

Let me know what you think in the comments or if you know someone you know doesn’t understand this issues please share this with them! Honestly if more people knew how to respect cosplayers the world would be a safer place for us.

Watch the video below to know what you should and should not do if this non-consensual attention occurs.

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