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Birds of Prey Is Empowering, Casually Queer, & Fun As Hell

Raffy Ermac

After a hard-fought, five-year production journey, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn is finally back on the big screen this week in DC and Warner Bros.' Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)! Written by Bumblebee's Christina Hodson and directed by Cathy Yan (the first Asian-American woman to direct a box office superhero movie), the film is stacked to the brim with a diverse cast of badasses, and through its unique blend of comedy, action, empowerment, and casual queer representation, Birds of Prey signals the beginning of a new, fun, and inclusive era for women in film! 

Warning! Birds of Prey spoilers ahead! 

Following the events of 2016's Suicide Squad, Birds of Prey starts off with our favorite antihero Harley Quinn as she adjusts to life after breaking up with Gotham City's clown prince of crime, the Joker. Without the protection of her manipulative ex (Gotham's underground is afraid of and intimidated by him), Harley has a huge target on her back (her antics with the Joker have made her quite a few enemies over the years), and in an effort to save her own life, she finds herself aiding nightclub owner/mob boss Roman Sionus (aka Black Mask, Ewan McGregor) and his right-hand man Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina) in a scheme to get back an extremely valuable diamond that was stolen by a pickpocketing teen named Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco). Naturally, with such a valuable treasure in her possession, Harley isn't the only one looking for Cassandra. With the help of Roman's double-dealing driver Dinah Lance (aka Black Canary, Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Gotham PD detective Renée Montoya (Rosie Perez) is also trying to recover Cassandra and the diamond before anything bad happens to either. After some setbacks, Harley, Dinah, Rosie, and a badass (but unfortunately underutilized) heroine named Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) all have to work together to keep Cassandra safe and evade the homicidal clutches of Roman and his entire criminal network.

While at times it can feel overcomplicated and extremely fast-paced, Birds of Prey is jam-packed with style and heart, and there's so much to love about it.

For queer comic book fans, one of the first treats you'll notice when watching Birds of Prey will surely be the casual way the film acknowledges two of its main characters' sexualities. In the movie's opening animated sequence where Harley (who is canonically bisexual) is briefly summarizing her life story, she is shown to have dated and been in past relationships with both men and women—a major step-up from her straight-washed, abusive, Joker-obsessed storyline in Suicide Squad. Later on, when Renée has to work with district attorney Ellen Yee (Ali Wong), a voiceover from Harley explicitly states that the two are ex-girlfriends, and it's super awkward for the two to have to collaborate. While it's nothing to write home about, the inclusion of brief, explicit queerness in Birds of Prey felt effortless, natural, and not tokenizing, something that is, sadly, still uncommon in big-budget superhero films. And we'll gladly take this over the blink-and-you'll-miss-it "queer" moments from other popular franchises (we're looking at you, Star Wars).

Birds of Prey's mix of action and comedy also really work well together. You get all the high-stakes intensity you'll ever want in orchestrated, choreographed fights and violence (ones that we couldn't get in Suicide Squad because of its PG-13 rating), but those moments will be mixed in with comical scenes of Roman's extravagance and flamboyance (Ewan McGregor really held his own) and Harley Quinn's usual kookiness (there's a scene where she literally mourns a fallen breakfast sandwich), giving the film the levity it needs.

But the best thing about Birds of Prey (and its biggest draw) really is getting to see Harley Quinn shine in the spotlight for once and reclaim her own identity outside of the Joker. The moment she and the rest of the Bird gang finally get together is also a hallmark moment of the film, and it'll definitely leave you wanting to see more of the entire cast to see what kind of adventures they go onto next. As usual, Margot Robbie's performance as the beloved Harley is astonishing, and it's obvious from the very first scene that she, unlike other actors who only do franchise films for the paycheck, has a deep and profound love and respect for the fan-favorite character (she was the driving force behind why the film was made in the first place, after all). 

If Birds of Prey is the start of a new chapter for women in superhero media, then we definitely want to keep seeing more! 

Birds of Prey hits theaters on Friday, February 7! Watch the official trailer in the video below! Harley Quinn is also returning to the box office again in 2021's The Suicide Squad!

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