Right shut up and sit down we are about to discuss a thing.
I recently went to see Birds of Prey and it revitalised my weary soul. I loved this movie, it just filled me with joy. Since then, however, I have seen and heard various comments about how the movie is anti-men.
Which is bullshit, by the way.
The main argument seems to be that the antagonists are men, and the reasoning behind this can be explained thusly: Harley Quinn is either friends with or sleeping with pretty much all the female villains in Gotham to my knowledge.
Additionally, if you’re still not convinced, I might be about to blow your mind.
There are male antagonists in the following: (Drumroll please)
- Iron Man
- Iron Man 2
- Iron Man 3
- The Avengers
- Captain America
- The Hulk
- Thor The Dark World
- Avengers Age of Ultron
- Captain America Civil War
- Avengers Endgame/ Infinity War
- The Guardians of the Galaxy
- Spiderman (all of them, just all of them)
- Black Panther
- Batman (again, all of them with the exception of half the villainous team up in DKR and maybe sort of Catwoman? She’s morally ambiguous tbh.)
- The Justice League
AND THESE ARE OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD. THERE’S DEFINITELY MORE. NOBODY ACCUSED SPIDERMAN OF BEING ANTI-MEN.
Does the movie highlight a power imbalance between the men and women therein? Yes. Are there men who are definitively Bad, deserving of the capitalisation? Yes. There’s mobsters, hitmen, violent criminals. These are caricatures, extreme villainous types we see in Gotham based movies all the time. There’s also a more subtle male villain in this movie, and I think this is the one that’s pissing people off.
The ‘nice guy’, the social climber, the one most of us have met. The one who takes credit for the work of others to get ahead, the one who’s your friend until not being so is more lucrative. The everyday guy without the arsenal of weapons and minions. Mistreatment of women in comic book movies is fine, it seems, when the person doing the mistreating has a neon ‘Bad Guy’ sign above his head at all times, it’s when that distinction isn’t there that they raise hackles. Because then they stop being a comic book character and just start being a person. A realistic, recognisable person that too many people have met outside of a cinema screen.
But there are good men in this movie, Sal the sandwich man. He did nothing wrong and was a gift to Gotham, even if he was probably giving them all food poisoning. Or the men who raised Huntress – I mean sure they were violent, but they seemed to be nice to her so I’m counting it. There was the nice man who let Harley out of his apartment.
Oh these male characters don’t have names or motivations beyond assisting the leads? What a bummer, sure don’t know what that feels like.
Simple fact of the matter is this is a Harley Quinn movie, half the good guys aren’t even that good. Harley teaches a child about tax fraud for goodness’ sake, she attacks policemen, she feeds a man to a hyena. Plus it’s Gotham, 9/10 people in Gotham are thoroughly disillusioned with the idea of being nice.
I am tired of female-led movies being held up to make a point. Why is it that whenever one of these movies comes out – Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, BOP – they’re expected to make a big political statement, and when a male led movie comes out – see all the others – it can just be a fun movie that people like to watch. Sure, they can make points – Aquaman talked about ocean pollution, Captain America’s favourite pasttime is the highly admirable sport of Nazi fighting, Black Panther tackled racism and the difficult to discuss topic of archaeological discovery and cultural theft, there’s a movement in these movies towards greater accountability which is great – but that’s not all they do. If one lady movie does remotely badly, there’s a risk another won’t be made – yet year after year mediocre male lead movies are churned out onto the big screen with little risk to their potential for sequels and funding.
I love superheroes and comic book movies, Iron man is one of my favourite franchises, I absolutely adore Tom Holland’s Spiderman, The Avengers is one of my favourite movies of all time. I also love Birds of Prey so, so much. I watched this movie and for the first time watching one of these movies I love so much I felt like the target demographic. I’m a queer woman who loves a kick ass fight scene and this was a movie that made me feel seen, acknowledged and thoroughly happy. I got to see women, some of whom are openly acknowledged as queer, reluctantly team up to fight Gotham’s leage of assholery while dressing and behaving like actual human beings not just put there to fill space and look pretty. They were human, flawed, definitely not all good guys, and I loved every single one of them. Is it a perfect movie? Maybe not. Is any movie a perfect movie?
I mean I have a soft spot for Sherlock Holmes, the Robert Downey Jr one? That’s pretty close to the money tbh. And Jurassic Park. And Spiderman into the Spiderverse. And Birds of Prey, so scratch that it’s pretty perfect. Fight me.
Thank you for attending my rant, now go watch the movie damnit.