Too Much HaRley in the Birds of Prey?
Early on there were NUMEROUS complaints that Harley Quinn was too much at the forefront of the marketing campaign. She appeared solo on the majority of the one sheets, and the trailers focused on her with bits and pieces of her co-stars. However, fast forward to today and there are complaints that the film was mistitled. That this was a Harley Quinn film and her name should have preceded Birds of Prey. Contradictory or valid complaint? WB has always made it clear that this was a Harley Quinn film. Audiences were not deceived on that front.
So was it the R-rating? Granted, R-ratings on mainstream films used to be a death sentence, and studios generally didn’t want that rating on “comic book” films or films that have six figure budgets. However, in recent years that has changed: with Fox’s Logan and Deadpool, and WB’s own IT: Chapter 1 & 2 and Joker being notable exemptions. Arguably, if any of the aforementioned films were made to be PG-13 they wouldn’t be the critical darlings that they are today. It’s hard to imagine Deadpool and Joker being anything but R-rated, and the same can be said for a Harley Quinn film.
But Birds of Prey didn’t necessarily need to be R-rated. Besides a few more choice swear words, and some graphic limb breaking, the film was a hard PG-13 at best. Would a red band trailer have helped? Who knows. I do know that if a younger demographic wanted to see this movie, they would and could have found a way. There have been more R-rated DC Animated films than not, and those seem to do just fine.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being Male
Maybe WB isn’t the problem in this case. Maybe it’s the fanboys, those who sneer at female led films, and those who can’t give their right hand a break for the length of a feature film. History has shown that some men will go out of their way to troll female led films, from 2016’s Ghostbusters to 2019’s Captain Marvel and Charlie’s Angels. Disgusting terms such as “feminazis” and slogans like “Get woke, go broke” get thrown around social media when these films come out. We’re not even going to get started on the vitriol that is thrown at the actors themselves. We’ve had to sit through decades of James Bond films that ranged from cool to extremely mediocre, and decades of Star Wars films, the 80’s and 90’s era of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Bruce Willis action films, and women like me have enjoyed them but felt largely underrepresented.
So no, I don’t believe WB is at fault here. The real enemy is Toxic Masculinity, and unfortunately DC caters to a much larger male audience, so their boycott did a bit of damage here. I believe that word of mouth and Valentine’s Day weekend will ultimately make this a successful run, but for WB I will say that Harley needs to be reintegrated into the public outside of DC Universe. Her series should have been widely accessible, especially for this release.
Birds of Prey is in theaters now. Go see it three times over!