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New Escapist Column! On “Birds of Prey” and Marginalised Characters…

I published an In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine last week, to mark the release of Birds of Prey.

One of the interesting aspects of Birds of Prey is the way in which it’s essentially a story about marginalised characters, characters who have historically been pushed to the edge of comic book narratives – erased and reinvented by the demands of universe-wide reboots, defined primarily in relationship to more popular male characters, and just generally subject to the whims of the shared universe. Part of what makes Birds of Prey so interesting is the way in which it builds that into the narrative, creating a story for its characters where the absence of Batman and the Joker is the entire point of the exercise.

It’s a very clever approach to the source material, and one which suggests a more fundamental understanding of the source material than many critics credit it. In some ways, it is a more faithful adaptation of the Suicide Squad concept than Suicide Squad, building itself around the flotsam and jetsam of DC continuity. It helps that Birds of Prey finds an emotional hook into this story and uses it to offer a feminist perspective on this familiar trope. After all, its notable that so many of these marginalised and erased characters are women.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

4 Responses

  1. The point on this film being some sort of watershed chance for marginalized characters having their big break falls flat when one realizes that the most prominent and mainstream character in the movie, Harley, eats most of the narrative up while most of the other characters become footnotes in the story.

    • I mean, Harley herself has been subject to reboots and reconfigurations over the years, notably with the reinvention with the new 52, and arguably even here when she’s cut off from Batman (who is now Robert Pattinson in The Batman) and the Joker (who is now an Oscar-winning Joaquin Phoenix), both of whom have received their own high-profile reinventions while she is just… there.

      • Harley’s got her own successful animated series right now, which is something Batman and the Joker can’t say at this point (Batman’s last animated series so far was the obscure and quite mistreated by the networks Beware the Batman several years ago, and Joker has never had an animated show of his own, although the character is far too… antagonistic to carry one).

        She’s also got an ongoing series in comics, and for years nonstop she’s had one after another with no breaks and many spinoffs, besides roles in the Suicide Squad comics and cartoons. I wouldn’t say she’s just ‘there’, and much like Batman’s high profile couldn’t save Justice League, Harley’s couldn’t save this one either. Far is fair, I believe this movie has sunk on its own merits or lack thereof.

      • It’s a television series that is only available on a boutique streaming service, and which isn’t legally available in large parts of the world. For point of comparison, Vixen’s animated series was more successful. And Luke Cage and Iron Fist’s streaming series, and I wouldn’t compare them to Batman or the Joker in terms of popularity.

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