You may have noticed, but Suicide Squad was released recently and with its release came a lot of discord. Ultimately Suicide Squad has been laced with controversy since it was announced as a film — between the casting choices, David Ayer's six weeks to write a script merged with a grueling filming and production schedule, Jared Leto's strange tactics and of course the sexualization of Harley Quinn.
Controversy in movies is nothing new as it follows nearly anything and everything in pop culture — most notably when those things are based on comic book characters like in Suicide Squad. One of the longest-running controversies is when a character gets a more sexually charged design, it's usually a female character taking on the role of a sexual icon for no other reason than because the studio can make it that way. I couldn't have phrased it better than Movie Pilot's Editor-in-Chief, Alisha Grauso as she puts it in her review of Suicide Squad:
...the part where she was hosed down so her t-shirt was completely see-through for no other reason than to sexualize her to a greater degree. As a woman who has seen some shit (as we all have), I can put up with a lot, so if even I am getting uncomfortable watching a movie, then it's bad... They [Warner Brothers] had the chance to make Harley a truly strong female character; they blew it. The film not only failed there, it actually dragged Harley Quinn backward.
The fact of the matter is that we're in a culture that sexualizes characters, because let's face it — they can. People (myself included) will read it, watch it, obsess over it. It's become so ingrained in our psyche that it's become a part of our culture. The over-sexualization of pop-culture isn't anything new as it's been going on for decades, but here are eight characters that have become over-sexualized icons.
8. Samus (Metroid Games)
What was intended as a reward for completing Metroid as quickly as possible became a predominant aspect of the series almost as quickly as the gamers discovered that they could see Samus in a pixelated bikini and boots.
Now, lets just hold up for a second and go back to the whole intended reward thing. Samus could have (and should have) been a shining example of feminine strength in a masculine-driven gaming culture. Samus has now been relegated to wearing high heels and sporting a blue spandex suit — sometimes just a sports bra that barely covers her ever-expanding breasts, as could be seen specifically in Super Smash Bros. 4 as her alternate costume.This proves that she has become a highly stylized sexual icon in gaming. It's pretty exceptional, considering Samus was initially intended to be a 6'3", 200lbs athlete.
7. Starfire (DC Comics)
Starfire is most well known for the Teen Titans cartoon, which led to her main demographic being young boys and girls. So, needless to say DC's choice to reboot the character as a polyamorous alien was a bit strange. Originally, Starfire was an awkwardly hopeful and shy girl that just wanted to experience Earth life and make friends.
The new Starfire is nearly a polar opposite of the cartoon Starfire, as she has been recreated as an emotionally-detached amnesiac who is sexually driven (in her first new episode the rest of the team brags about who has been with her while she's saving them in a firefight).
6. Sophitia Alexandra (Soulcaliber Series)
Video games tend to be a major culprit when it comes to sexualizing a character, and probably one of the best examples is the entire Soulcalibur franchise. Soulcalibur has been criticized for years as the characters have been developed in a way that focuses more on warriors with minimal boob protection more than anything else.
Sophita is the perfect example of this as she's gone from a "innocent, young female" warrior wearing a battle cuirass in Soul Edge to a barely-there-piece-of-cloth-wearing fighter in the most recent Soulcaliber V.
5. Psylocke (Marvel Comics)
Another mutant from Marvel Comics, Psylocke is the most sexually-charged Asian-body-swapped-telekinetic-samurai in the history of all comics (alright she's the only one of those, but it doesn't change the fact that she had been created as such).
Psylocke is the sister of Captain Britain and was nothing more than a side character for many years — at least before her mutant genes activated and she is subsequently abducted by a Japanese crime lord, then underwent a genetic merge and swap with a braindead ninja. At that point, Psylocke's full powers were revealed and ultimately her costume seemed to have become more revealing as well.
4. Wonder Woman (DC Comics)
You would think that one of the characters of DC's Trinity would be a hero that would shy away from the sexualized stereotype of female comic characters. But, that is sadly untrue, as Wonder Woman went through her own transformation in the '90s.
Wonder Woman started her career as a pillar of womanly virtue, considering that she was to be a feminine icon promoting gender equality. The most obvious example is from Justice League of America #14, in which we see the above image that serves as nothing more than a reason to put Wonder Woman's breasts on display while she's bound and defenseless. The women in this scene are bound up and presented in a profoundly sexual way compared to the male characters in the top right.
Then there's also the time when Wonder Woman used the power of the Star Sapphires and her costume changed from the patriotic that we know to using her WW logo to hold up her breasts (at least it's functional, some may say).
3. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider Series)
Now, technically Lara has undergone a fantastic transformation since the 2013 release of Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider two years later. In these games, Lara takes a more human appearance because that's how Crystal Dynamics intended her to appear.
Yet, back in the late '90s and early 2000s, the idea wasn't to make her appear more human. The goal was to reinvent Lara as a strong female icon to the gaming world (much in the same vein as Samus in Metroid had the potential to be), and this goal was achieved as Lara has stood the test of time even though her proportions have gone through several alterations through the multiple generations of Tomb Raider games. It's very much worth noting that her bust size was a total accident and ended up 150% larger than originally intended.
2. Power Girl (DC Comics)
Power Girl came to the pages of comic books as the cousin to the beloved Superman, but from an alternate universe in the DC Multiverse. Power Girl sets herself apart from her multiverse counterpart, Supergirl in a few mannerisms and fighting style, but the most noticeable difference is in her costume choice: white spandex leotard with a gaping hole over her breasts.
Over the years, Power Girl herself has spoken about the reasons for the hole in her costume as everything from: "I'm a healthy woman, and if men stare that's their problem" (Justice League Europe #37) to "I wanted to have a symbol like you [Superman] but couldn't think of one so I left it open" (JSA: Classified #2) to the even more outrageous "I am strong and empowered, therefore I love being naked and stared at." In reality, the original artist — Wally Wood — chose to enlarge her breasts with each issue until the editors noticed. They noticed, but didn't change it.
1. Harley Quinn (DC Comics)
The proverbial problem child when it comes to sexualized character design. Harley entered our reality in Batman: The Animated Series, and was never intended to be more than a means to an end, but fans quickly flocked to the clown princess and she became canon just as fast. Harley has undergone countless redesigns over the years, mostly losing fabric with each iteration (Suicide Squad version included). Even though Harley tends to be a sexual character in the comics given her background with The Joker being something that nobody should endure.
The sad part is that as popular as she has been over the years and the positive steps that Harley has been taking recently in the comics, that didn't seem to matter to Warner Brothers. The version of Harley that we see in Suicide Squad is over-stylized and turned into a sexual icon.
Take a look at Harley's greatest hits from The Animated Series and proved that she was way more than a sex symbol: