As if anticipating the boom of the #MeToo movement, Warner Bros. Pictures announced in May 2016 a spinoff film focused on the female characters of DC Comics.
After the success of Suicide Squad, Harley Quinn’s story was an obvious choice.
With Margot Robbie back in character, and now as co-producer, the eighth film in DC’s Extended Universe was put into the hands of Cathy Yan and written by Christina Hodson, who chose Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong, and Ewan McGregor as the rest of the cast.
The film follows the story of Harley Quinn and her vigilante squad formed by Helena Bertinelli, Dinah Lance, Renee Montoya and Cassandra Cain.
Not only was this the first time that Warner Bros. bet on a team of women, but it also brought to life the lesbian and Latino comic book icon Renee Montoya, which directly captured the attention of many of us.
From the post-breakup between Quinn and the Joker, Birds of Prey transforms into Harley Quinn’s “coming-of-age story,” as Carmen Phillips explains in her column for Autostraddle, “stepping out of the oversized shadow of one of the most infamously rage-filled white men in comics lore — and that’s saying a lot.”
The writer of this note can only agree with Phillips that the romantic thread that binds Quinn and Montoya’s characters together is “canonically, on-screen queer!”
The gender parallels between both gangs and the nods to queer culture — from costumes to food — speaks perfectly to how the DC universe has always been on the side of outcasts, including those who for decades remained on the sidelines of heteronormativity.
Although the film has received mixed reviews — a 6.76/10 on Rotten Tomatoes and a “more than horrible” from critics like Mick LaSalle — in the LGBTQ+ community Birds of Prey has a 10/10 in representation.
“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, wrote Raffy Ermac for pride.com.
“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.”
For his part, Daniel Megarry wrote for the Gay Times Magazine that, within the team of villains, flirtation with the queer identity of the characters was more than visible.
“Roman is a heavily queer-coded antagonist, lounging around his apartment in silk pajamas and camping it up like Liberace every time he’s on screen,” he wrote. “Victor, meanwhile, plays the doting partner who’ll do anything for him (yes, that includes slicing faces off in a scene that’s not for the faint of heart). The two are inseparable, and the chemistry is definitely there — so much so that we spent most of the movie waiting for them to just kiss already.”
So the answer is yes: Birds of Prey is not only a queer movie, but perhaps the best made in a long time.