Girl power done right in Birds of Prey



Birds of Prey, starring Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, has opened with a disappointment, earning $33.3 million. Despite its favorable reviews, this was one of the lowest opening weekends for a superhero film. It’s almost as though people are discrediting the fact that a superhero movie with an entirely female main cast can have action, comedy and otherwise, substance.

The essence of the film follows Quinn after her breakup with the Joker. Not only does she pick up the pieces, but she gathers together her own ragtag group of powerful ladies. She really seems to set out to form her own identity away from the Joker. However, the Joker’s presence is certainly felt. He is mentioned several times, but the film didn’t need him in order to be successful. Harley can stand perfectly fine on her own, thank you very much. Seeing Harley learn this and come into her own as she takes on the role of a leader was powerful. Harley assembles a group of women, the Birds of Prey, to take down the Black Mask, or Roman Sionis, together.

We are introduced to Huntress, born into the wealthy Bertinelli mob family and the sole survivor of their subsequent bloody murder. After witnessing her entire family get brutally killed, Huntress dedicates her whole young life preparing and training to get revenge on the people who killed her family.

Black Canary, the resident singer at Black Mask’s nightclub, is a highly-skilled fighter with a supersonic screech. She feels trapped and used by Black Mask, eventually becoming his driver. We also get to witness an iconic moment during a fight where Harley Quinn offers Black Canary a hair tie—ultimate sisterhood.

Renee Montoya is a scorned detective for the Gotham City Police Department. She is intuitive and very skilled at solving cases. She works under Commissioner James Gordon, who repeatedly takes credit for her hard work. The department is no fan, however, of her case against Black Mask or the way she goes about solving it. In the film, we see Montoya really come into her own  and go rogue, solving the case her way.

Our final Bird of Prey, Cassandra Cain, is a preteen pickpocket on the streets of Gotham. She finds herself suddenly in unimaginable trouble when she steals the priceless Bertinelli diamond out of the Black Mask’s henchman, Zsasz’s, pocket. When caught by the police, she swallows the diamond in a panic. She becomes the main target of the Black Mask and his hired assassins, with a $500,000 reward to whoever can get her to Black Mask alive first.

The biggest takeaway from Birds of Prey was getting to see these powerful women come together in the face of adversity as they cared and fought for each other. Birds of Prey wasn’t in-your-face about the whole “female empowerment thing,” but rather, it was subtle in its display of these women growing as individuals and developing genuine care for each other. There was a very powerful moment in the middle of a huge fight where Huntress hands a panicked Cassandra a tiny toy car that Huntress herself held onto for comfort when her family was being killed. She told Cassandra to just hide, close her eyes and focus on the toy.

These women, while not always liking each other, protected each other in difficult moments. They banded together to protect Cassandra from the Black Mask. This, it seems, is the “right” way to go about displaying girl power– not in an obnoxious or overly-sexualized way, but in a way that shows a genuine care and connection between women. Not only that, but women knowing that they can stand on their own without being at the beck and call of another more powerful man is also shown. We can be powerful on our own. We all have something different to bring to the table. These individual differences should be celebrated—and this is what Birds of Prey has accomplished.