The best thing about Suicide Squad was Harley Quinn. She already had her own audience, and the echoes of supply and demand being one of the most infamous comic book characters. But, her character was overshadowed in Suicide Squad by the comedic writing of the Joker, and the way they marketed her as a sex symbol and nothing more. Cathy Yan’s ‘Birds of Prey’ makes up for that, and gives us the story that female comic book fans deserve.
After an explosive break up with the Joker, Harley Quinn is out on her own. She has got her own little apartment, her own pet hyena and has cut her bangs- aside from the pet hyena part she’s totally relatable of any girl going through a life crisis and wanting to self sabotage using their hair as the bait. Her narration post break up rings true of chick flicks and Hollywood high school films, but for her, it works. We learn that she feels like nothing without the Joker because she’s been trained to feel like nothing without him- and how behind all of his ‘great ideas’ was her mind that she didn’t get credit for. The story is beginning to shape from a break up tale, to a woman irritated and frustrated by the patriarchy constantly shutting her down.
The way in which it’s narrated is very similar to Deadpool. The unreliable narrator style with added comedy and flair is what makes the story so compelling along with the little details that lets us into Harley Quinn’s ticking mind.
But the main theme of this film is feminism and the issues women face on the daily. Detective Renee Montoya is a great character example- she’s been a detective for years and after solving the greatest crime break of her career, her male partner got promoted to captain, and she got stuck with another partner who constantly talks over her great ideas and ‘mansplains’ her constantly. Dinah Lance (or black canary as we know her) was taken off the streets by Roman Sionis so is owned by him to do his dirty work in exchange for emotional blackmail. The film is full of great, complex characters with flaws, situations and battles and they don’t come out heroes like in any other Hollywood film. We watch their struggles and watch how they solve them strategically.
Unlike Suicide Squad, this film is the absence of the male gaze. A rebellion against it, almost. There are no shots that are suggestive towards any of the female characters; the characters have been dressed for the story and not for the male audience and there’s no nudity. This film was crafted for female viewers, an audience that can understand the dimension of emotion and frustration the characters on screen are feeling. Small details like Harley Quinn recreating Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend’ with an almost identical outfit to the original but she’s wearing a pantsuit is incredible. Also, in one of the fight scene’s, Harley Quinn passes a hair band to Black Canary. It’s these realistic, feminine touches that make this film what it is.
SPOILER: There is a sexual assault scene during the film where Sionis commands a drinker in his club to stand on the table, while he commanded another man to rip her dress down to humiliate her. It was heart breaking to watch, because it was a sexual assault scene that was non violent and coercive, a battle females are constantly fighting for male’s to recognise. Instead of seeing this assault in the perspective of the predator or the victim, we see it through the eyes of an onlooking woman- the black canary- and how she gets upset watching it. This is something I haven’t seen in mainstream film, and it is echoing Cathy Yan’s mind as a director. The detail, the structure and effortless construction of this film proves Yan as the next female director to watch in Hollywood.