The importance of Birds of Prey
By Colby Tortorici
The upcoming DC flick Birds of Prey is noteworthy for more reasons than one.
The newest entry into the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), which features the titular Birds of Prey team, is headed to theaters February of 2020.
The movie stars Marot Robbie reprising her role as Harley Quinn, and is quite a big deal for representation in Hollywood, as well as the superhero genre for a number of reasons. Let’s get into it.
Team-up movies have been the name of the game when it comes to superhero movies for some time (even if it isn’t the way DC has been handling its films). The Marvel films have been consistently centered around a connected universe in which heroes can appear in each others’ films, with the Avengers films being the culmination of those projects. When it comes to these films, the overwhelming majority of heroes featured are men. DC was the first to do a solo female superhero movie with 2017’s Wonder Woman (which released to massive critical and commercial success) and will be the first to release an all-female group movie with Birds of Prey.
Consider this for a moment: Birds of Prey’s main cast consists of Margot Robbie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Rosie Perez, and Ella Jay Basco. Smollett-Bell is black, Perez is Puerto Rican, and Basco is Korean and Filipino. All women, the majority of which are of non-white descent. Okay, yeah. Fantastic! What other Hollywood films, let alone superhero films, are doing this right now? Birds of Prey is taking leaps forward in diversity in its casting choices. The director is also a Chinese woman, Cathy Yan — even more diversity, keep it coming. When it comes down to it, Robbie is largely the one to thank for this.
After the critical success of Suicide Squad … scratch that, the critical success of Robbie’s Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad, Warner Bros. wanted to follow up with a solo Harley movie. However, Robbie used her power at the studio and pitched a Birds of Prey movie that she would produce until Warner Bros. accepted it, which took about three years. Signed on as a star and producer, Robbie made sure that the film was filled with diverse actresses and helmed by a female director, Yan. Robbie used her power as one of the most successful characters in the DCEU to introduce a diverse, all-female superhero movie to the masses. Had she not been at the helm of this, and diverted the film to feature this cast of women rather than just herself, it likely would have never happened. Besides the fact that the general public is now going to be introduced to four awesome female heroes from DC’s catalog, early reports seem to indicate that we’ll be getting a fantastic film out of it, too.
Birds of Prey isn’t it for female-led films when it comes to the DCEU.
Following Birds of Prey in the DCEU is Wonder Woman 1984, which gets released in June, 2020. The studio also has a Batgirl movie in production (who just so happens to be the character Ella Jay Basco is portraying in Birds of Prey), along with a Gotham City Sirens project (that Robbie is executive producing) in the works. The Gotham City Sirens is yet another all-female team, consisting of Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Harley Quinn.
There will also be a third Wonder Woman movie and a movie centered on Supergirl. DC is leading the charge for diversity in the superhero genre. When this movie succeeds (let’s be real, it isn’t an “if”), the doors will open wider for future superhero movies to feature diversity in casting and staffing. That's something the superhero genre needs very much right now.