The female gaze and ‘Birds of Prey’

By Lauren Piskothy

I walked into the theater a few weeks back, completely indifferent to seeing Birds of Prey,” but left wanting to see women blow things up more often.

I heard so many things about this movie before I saw it, mostly from Twitter and articles about the “horrible ratings” and the “raging feminism.” It seemed as if women loved it and men hated it, and the thought of that irked me to the point of not even wanting to bother.

But I’m glad I did, because I would have missed out on a great movie, and not just because it featured women, but because it was genuinely a good movie. And I understand not everyone is going to like it — art’s subjective — but don’t count a movie out because you don’t like the fact that women are the main characters. It had a great story line, it was funny, it had compelling characters and amazing cinematography. That alone is a lesson in why we need more female led movies like “Birds of Prey.”

It’s a bit of a catch 22 in the sense that it seems there is such controversy that surrounds a movie that stars all women and that automatically causes viewers to pigeon hole it into a “Feminist Lecture” movie. Movies like the Ghostbusters remake, or Captain Marvel, seem to easily attract negative press, for the same reasons.

Women should not be bullied into having less screen time.  

I liked seeing women fight for themselves. I liked seeing women support each other rather than having them pitted against one each other. I liked that each woman was entitled to dress the way she wanted to and not for the attention or approval of another male character. These are things we see in movies with all male casts all of the time: men fighting for themselves, having brotherhoods with one another, and dressing however they want. Yet, we never bat an eye, so why should we when women doing the exact same thing?

Maybe some men are bothered by this movie because of the way the male characters were portrayed? Maybe the reason my brother and my dad both didn’t like the movie was because there were no redeeming male characters, despite the fact that all male casts have male villains all the time. At first, I thought maybe the movie was a bit harsh to have the men all be so horrible and evil, and felt a bit guilty for liking the movie as much as I did. Maybe it isn’t fair that men my age and younger have grown up in a time where all men are being condemned for the behavior of those before them. I don’t think it’s fair that people make comments on Twitter about all men being horrible and I’ve never believed that feminism should put down men, but then I realized that this movie just does exactly what all male driven movies do. All it does is point out the gaping hole in representation of women on the big screen.

The only thing that sets Birds of Prey apart from a movie like Batman v. Superman or Iron Man is that women are the leads instead of the passive sidekicks. I shouldn’t be made to feel bad for liking a movie that makes me feel good about myself. Not to say that I am going to fall in love with a murderess clown and start my own female led vigilante group any time soon, but still, seeing all women in a fight scene is a good feeling.

No wonder men wait in line to see the Avengers or Fast and Furious 9, it’s because those movies make them feel like they could do anything. Men have been riding the high of Superman, Batman, Captain America, Iron Man, Spider Man, Thor, Ant Man, Aqua Man, and on and on… for so long. Letting women fight their own battles doesn’t delete all of the past male superheroes and future ones to come, it just evens out the playing field. There’s more than enough space for women to be superheroes too.

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