Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a fantabulous movie. Full stop. One of the things that makes it that way? The fact that it has so many moments that women everywhere can deeply relate to.
This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the cast is made up predominantly of (badass) women and there were just as many pulling the strings behind the scenes.
From the director to the screenwriter to the fact that Margot Robbie has championed and pushed for this movie every step of the way, the girl power behind Birds of Prey can’t be understated.
And yet, speaking as a woman who loves movies, I was hesitant to put too much stock into the lineups of ladies in front of and behind the camera here. I’ve been burned by “all-female” movies before.
Just like it’s not impossible that men will never portray women on screen in a way that’s actually accurate or relatable (although it’s unlikely), there’s no guarantee that having a ton of women on set will make for a movie that I can see myself in.
A late 20-something that doesn’t have superpowers but has a fire to stick up for and defend others. Who values strength but also vulnerability and loves going home to luxuriate in soft things. Someone who thinks about tacos almost 24/7 and has had her fair share of scary encounters with unpredictable men.
My experience, as well as the experiences of billions of other women around the world, is one that’s rarely reflected on the screen because of 1) The lack of opportunities given to female creators and 2) The lack of diversity in women-centric stories creators (male and female) have wanted to make.
Birds of Prey is unlike almost anything I’ve ever watched. I haven’t had my personal experiences and worldviews validated by blockbuster media since Agent Carter.
No, I don’t identify as a mobster/terrifying clown’s ex-girlfriend, mercenary, dog-walker, or anything else that was on Harley Quinn’s business card. I also don’t identify as a lounge singer, pickpocket, seasoned (’80s-inspired) cop, or huntress.
But while I don’t identify with who their bios say they are, I strongly identify with who Harley Quinn and the newly-mined Birds of Prey are at their cores. I identify with them as women living the female experience in this modern age of #MeToo, angry straight white men, and claiming what has always been ours.
And I don’t think I’m the only one.
Though the movie consists of a series of life-affirming and empowering scenes, these are the absolute best Birds of Prey moments that every woman can relate to.
The hair tie moment
Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we? I know you’ve already seen a ton of discussion of this small moment between Harley Quinn and Dinah Lance during Birds of Prey‘s climactic fight. But there’s a reason for that.
Us women, in general, we love our hair. We take pride in it (or our lack thereof). But there are times where we need to get that shit out of our faces. Not only does it get in our way and obstruct our view, but it can also get tangled and more prone to breaking the longer it’s left unchecked.
No, our hair doesn’t completely impede us from doing what needs to be done. Dinah was a skilled fighter when she had her hair down. But when faced with dozens of incompetent goons (instead of just the one who was trying to “take Harley home”), pulling her hair back made her even better.
And speaking of that earlier scene with Harley Quinn and the potential rapist…
Dinah questioning whether or not to intervene in a situation that looks potentially unsafe
Watching Dinah’s internal struggle between minding her business and intervening when it looked like a very incapacitated Harley Quinn was about to go home with someone who likely would’ve taken advantage of her, I not only saw myself but also my greatest fear.
Sadly, Dinah’s situation is one I think about on a regular basis. On a relatively recent episode of Girls Gotta Eat, host Ashley Hesseltine told the story of how she intervened in a potentially rapey situation one night while out with friends, making sure a complete stranger wasn’t taken advantage of and that she made it home safely.
I constantly ask myself what I’d do in a situation like this. I mean, I’d hope I’d have the courage to intervene (or the back-up so that I wouldn’t have to worry about my own safety when doing so). But I know that, no matter what, if faced with another woman who was potentially in danger, I’d go back and forth just like Dinah.
Also, as hard as I try not to, I worry about what would happen to me if I was put in Harley Quinn’s position. If I was alone and vulnerable and helpless. Would someone come help me, regardless of how (if at all) they feel about me?
This scene was simultaneously difficult and cathartic to watch because it’s a predicament that women are forced to ruminate on regularly. And only women creators would know that.
All women being afraid of self-entitled (white) guys lashing out
Another thing that only women creators would know about? The constant fear every woman has of self-entitled and privileged (white) men lashing out when they don’t get their way.
You know that saying where, in dating and just in life, men are most afraid that women will laugh at them while women are afraid that men will kill them? These kinds of men are the reason for that. It doesn’t matter what they’re lashing out about. When they’re riled up, they’re dangerous and unpredictable.
Birds of Prey not only shines a light on these kinds of men, but it also feeds into that saying. There’s literally a scene where Roman Sionis feels threatened and intimidates, terrifies, and humiliates a woman in his club because he thinks she’s laughing at him. The fear evoked in that scene is the same kind of fear women live with every single day because it’s impossible to know what’s going to set off these insecure and dangerous men.
The entire movie deals with this aspect of living as a woman in today’s society just because Roman Sionis is the main villain, but this scene is the moment that really sells it.
Harley Quinn coming home after working hard and just wanting to relax on the couch
I never related more to Cassandra Cain than when she walked into Harley Quinn’s apartment and marveled at it (and then proceeded to defend it to Harley herself). As an adult, I’ve realized that there are few joys greater than that of having a space that’s entirely your own. Yes, there will always be that voice that will make you feel the need to defend it to others (seriously, Harley’s interjection was so relatable), but that doesn’t make it any less special.
And after a long day of working hard and trying to prove her worth to others, there’s nothing better than coming home to do nothing and just be. A woman’s home is energizing and comforting. A place where we don’t have to worry about what others think and we can just sit, eat cereal, and watch mindless TV.
Watching Birds of Prey, I wanted nothing more than to curl up on that couch with Harley Quinn, her groundhog, and her Bruce. It looked like heaven.
Renee and Dinah both feeling disrespected and undervalued in the workplace
In their own ways, Renee and Dinah demonstrate some of the issues women face in the workplace. Renee struggles and fails to gain the respect and commendations she deserves. Dinah’s performances go relatively ignored and she’s forced to placate a manchild who speaks down to her every occasion he gets.
It’s no secret that women earn less than men, both in terms of respect and compensation. But while it’s relatively straightforward to prove the latter (and would be more so if the stigma of talking about salaries were to lift), evidence of the former comes in all shapes and sizes.
From being spoken to condescendingly to having someone else constantly take the credit for your work to being made to feel like you should be forever thankful to the person who “gave” you your job, all of these (and others) are slights that women everywhere have experienced on the job.
Hell, even Harley Quinn has experienced them. After all, at some point, she notes how some of the best ideas were hers but The Joker took credit for all of them.
If there’s one thing that all women have in common, it’s a story about how their work has been undervalued at some point in their lives.
The awkwardness of forming female friendships
Creating and cultivating female friendships is difficult. Many of us have been conditioned to view each other as a threat and approach with caution, so it can take a while for women to be comfortable together. Not only that, but it’s sometimes hard to accept kindness and compliments at face value.
I really enjoyed and appreciated how Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey all came together in a way where they weren’t at all fast friends but there wasn’t a lot of infighting either. They turned their attention to what needed to be done and bonded over that. But even that wasn’t immediate. Case in point: Helena and how bumbling she was when interacting with the other women.
The cherry on top was the final Birds of Prey scenes where the women are hyping each other up by complimenting their skills and then banding together to form their own badass team. But, as with all solid female friendships, they could only get there by going through the awkward period that most of us know so well.
Excitement over outfits that are as fashionable as they are functional
When the #GirlSquad goes for tacos at the end of the film, Helena turns to Dinah and compliments her for how much ass she kicked in her sexy yet sensible outfit, and it was fantastic. Many times in action movies, let alone comic book-inspired flicks, women are forced to wear form fitting clothing that’s not really all that practical. Not only that, but it doesn’t look like it’d be very comfortable. (See Black Widow in almost every movie she’s in.)
But Dinah Lance’s outfit in the last section of the movie is both fashionable and functional. It’s form-fitting but not restrictive. Not only that, but it doesn’t accentuate or glorify aspects of the female form that men obsess over. It’s a very flattering outfit and makes her look sexy, but not in a male gaze kind of way.
And you know what? Finding an outfit that’s comfortable and easy to move in but still inspires a boat-load of self-confidence is the dream.
‘No one is like me.’
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time we heard someone utter a memorable phrase like this, it was Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy and he only really seemed to be referring to his physical existence. Sure, throw a bit of his sass in for further consideration, but it was really only a surface-level kind of sentiment. But Harley Quinn’s argument of “No one is like me” when Cassandra tries to say that she wants to be like Harley is both heart-breaking and life affirming.
If movies dictated the experience of being a woman, we’d all be mysterious spies, femme fatales, or generic girls next door. There wouldn’t be much diversity, and we’d literally all be like each other. But we’re not. We’re the products of our natures and environments, fates and choices, successes and failures. No two of us are exactly the same.
Harley Quinn’s lecture of how she came to be is both sad and empowering, but absolutely relatable. It was a wonderful moment that will surely stick in my mind for weeks to come.
Harley Quinn craving tacos literally all the time
I mean, come on. Tacos. Whether or not they voiced their cravings aloud, women almost always have a hankering for tacos (even if they’ve just had them).
After breaking up with a boyfriend, a post-victory celebration, the meal at the end of a long day of work… Tacos are the perfect anytime food, and it’s practically impossible not to relate to Harley Quinn’s obsession.