How close are we to the next “real story of women”: A review of movie Birds of Prey

Splitting “bad guys” and “good guys” by gender. Girl power stories shouldn’t be as simple and direct as that.

Main female characters including Harley Quinn, heroine of movie Birds of Prey, are having drink after a fight like it’s no big deal. Audience Alex thought this scene was “quite unrealistic and lighthearted”. Photograph: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It was the beginning of a brand new day. Harley Quinn was sipping a margarita with her girls, joking around, having Mexican food, laughing like they were having a sleepover. But what they actually had last night was a fight.

As a beloved villain, Harley Quinn is always featured as girlfriend of the supervillain Joker, with her evil smile and her crazy but brilliant ideas.

However, in the new movie Birds of Prey, which was released on February 7, she was dumped by Joker and soon found her new Squad – an all-women team. These four different women with different lives and missions gathered at the final moment to protect Cassandra Cain, a young girl who swallowed a stolen diamond from crime lord Roman Sionis and therefore was hunted by him.

It is another classic superhero movie based on DC Comics with eye-catching characters, crazy and dramatic spectacles, and spot on music. Hilarious quotes and stupid actions come out of nowhere from time to time, which help lighten the mood. But if you really look into the setting of the whole story, you will find that the gender roles are clearly divided on purpose.

Crazy and beautiful as usual, Harley Quinn talks more in this movie. Photograph: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Harley Quinn, former experienced psychiatrist who was able to spot the hidden truths behind people and dared to speak the harsh realities in prequel Suicide Squad, was twisted into a symbol of emancipation in this movie, a vulnerable little bird struggling to get out of her cage. But who prisoned her? This movie tells you it’s men, the opposite gender.

Joker dumped her, Roman manipulated her to find the lost diamond, and the old man who had a restaurant, as well as Harley’s trust, betrayed her for money. Every males role in this movie hurt her.

A girl as powerful as her is simply controlled by Roman for no apparent reason. Photograph: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Black Canary, just like her name, an extremely fantastic bird with a beautiful voice and great power, is another female role being trapped in a patriachal cage, Roman. He valued her, he danced for her, he also feared to lose her. The moment Roman heard that Black Canary betrayed him during the mission, her disobedience outraged this man. He put on the mask and yet more hatred appeared between the two genders.

The gangs are clearly divided by gender in this movie. Photograph: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

In the final fight scene, all gender roles are totally divided, which leads to the hidden theme of this movie: men and women must be against each other.

“All of Roman’s gang are male, all of Harley’s gang are female,” said Alex, a DC Comics fan who watched this movie two weeks ago and was disappointed with it.”It made what was potentially a fantastic movie too agenda-driven.”

For people looking for a comedy, Birds of Prey might be spot on. But for DC Comics fans who expect more, this movie tries too hard to follow the trend and therefore loses itself.

“The underlying lines were all too clearly-drawn, making you feel like you are being spoon-fed a feminist’s Twitter feed, rather than viewing a classic DC Comic movie,” says Alex.

With the rising attention of women in society, the film industry is trying to provide more women-themed movies from different perspectives to reveal, to discuss, and to please a certain kind of audience. Birds of Prey was made with the last purpose. They want to highlight “girl power” by setting up a dichotomy between women and men, showing how effortlessly girls can defeat the men. It might be a good approach as a comedy. But in real life, also in the original comics, nothing is simply divided by gender.