Does your daughter hope to dress up as Harley Quinn this Halloween? If so, she may be upsetting the mentally ill — or at least people who treat them.
This year, Harley Quinn costumes — Quinn is the Joker’s girlfriend in DC Comics’ Batman comics and a character in the “Suicide Squad” movie — are the No. 1 trending Halloween costume on Google (followed by the Joker and Superhero), and experts say you can expect lots of kids to dress up as the “psychotic” (that’s how DC comics describes her) character. Quinn, though fictional, has been described by some experts as having a mental illness. Psychologist Wind Goodfriend, writing for Psychology Today, notes that she appears to have histrionic personality disorder (symptoms include being overly dramatic and shallow, wearing provocative clothing and overestimating intimacy): “It’s almost as if Harley’s character were written to exemplify this list of traits.”
Some say wearing a Harley Quinn costume is offensive to those diagnosed with a mental illness. “It is disrespectful,” says Catherine Roland, president of the American Counseling Association, an organization that represents tens of thousands of counselors — who adds that there are many other costumes that depict those diagnosed with mental illness that are also offensive. The character’s exaggeration [of what a mentally ill person is really like] “gives nothing but a very negative, fear-producing sense of those individuals.” And large numbers of people wearing it (or other costumes of mentally ill people) can be hurtful: “How would anyone feel who is being made fun of,” she points out. Warner Bros. Consumer Products, which licenses the costumes, says it has “no comment.”
Beverly Hills-based pyschotherapist Fran Walfish agrees that the costume might “perpetuate negative stereotypes” about the mentally ill, but adds that many severely mentally ill people (those with psychosis, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, for example) likely would not be offended by the costume. “They are living in distorted perceptions of reality,” she says — and thus may not have the mental capacity to be offended by these costumes.
Some say people who say these costumes are offensive to the mentally ill may be overly sensitive. “I think Halloween is a time for children to role play,” says parenting expert Cherie Corso. “I used to dress as a gypsy and my brother as a hobo,” she says. “All of these costumes are completely politically incorrect — and we all survived … I think we need to just have more fun and everybody ease up on the PC.”
Story updated to reflect response from Warner Bros. Consumer Products.
While your’re here… Check out my other blogs on mental illness!!