Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

SPOILERS FOR A MOVIE STILL IN THEATERS

GONNA TALK ABOUT SEVERAL CHARACTER DETAILS NOT IN THE TRAILERS BUT NOT SPOIL THE ENDING

ALSO SPOILERS FOR THE COMIC X-MEN #6 THAT CAME OUT THIS WEEK. IT’LL ALL MAKE SENSE AT THE END.

There are a number of articles talking about how this is the gayest superhero movie thus far, all written by people more talented than me. But that’s not going to stop me from talking about queer representation in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn! Or Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey as it has apparently been renamed.

First off, we have confirmed queer characters. The movie opens with a brief cartoon telling the history of Harleen Quinzel (reprised by Mrs. Margot Robbie) and how she became the villain she is today. One part goes over several bad relationships she’s been in, and in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment one of her exes is a woman. I call it “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” because I missed it, only finding out about it after the fact. So Harley is bisexual (or pansexual), a nod to her sexuality in the comics. But beyond that brief moment, there’s not much else to confirm her sexual orientation. She misses the Joker, but doesn’t show any interest towards any of the other women in the film outside of the occasional admiration towards their violent tendencies.

Then we have Renee Montoya (Mrs. Rosie Perez). In the comics she’s a lesbian police officer, had a relationship with Batwoman, and became the Question for a while. In the movie we get confirmation of her sexuality with a single, quick line saying that the assistant district attorney Ellen Yee (Mrs. Ali Wong) is her ex. And… that’s it. Another easily missed moment, demonstrated this time by my husband not noticing it. Here at least Renee and Ellen share some screen time, but their tense, somewhat antagonistic relationship seems more like “frustrated ADA and a cop who is trying so hard.” Again, outside of being told she’s gay, we don’t see the character do anything that acknowledges that information.

Arguably, the most queer representation we have is between Roman Sionis/Black Mask (Mr. Ewan Mcgregor) and Mr. Zsasz (Mr. Chris Messina). I want to make very clear that there is no concrete confirmation that these two are a gay couple in the movie… but hot damn, they are so, SO gay. But without anything official it just becomes more queer coding of villains, a trope as old as Hollywood.

In the end we have a lesbian and a bisexual woman with their sexual orientations told rather than shown organically, and two possibly gay men where it’s all subtext (no matter how loud that subtext may be). And, well… it IS the gayest superhero movie yet, but for me that doesn’t mean much. Especially when contrasted with the most recent (as of writing this) issue of X-Men where Mystique flat out says that Destiny was her wife, confirming decades of subtext. I know that comics and movies are very different beasts, but… I just want gayer heroes and villains, you know? I don’t want to nibble on crumbs of queer content and say that’s filling!

Not to say that I didn’t like the movie. It’s fun! Very Deadpool-esque in how it works to be worth its R-rating while keeping things comedic. Check it out!


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