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How Birds of Prey Nails Female Empowerment Without the Cringe Aspect

ROSIE PEREZ as Renee Montoya, MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD as Huntress, MARGOT ROBBIE as Harley Quinn, ELLA JAY BASCO as Cassandra Cain and JURNEE SMOLLETT-BELL as Black Canary in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BIRDS OF PREY (AND THE FANTABULOUS EMANCIPATION OF ONE HARLEY QUINN),” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by Claudette Barius

(image: Claudette Barius/Warner Bros.)

There have been times in movies when a “girl power” moment comes along that I feel my entire body shake—mainly because I find moments when a woman just befriends other women for the sake of checking off a box to be tiresome, which is why I don’t like the “girl power” moment of Avengers: Endgame (and I’m not alone).

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So why do I love the fight sequences of Birds of Prey and the “she’s not alone” moment of Avengers: Infinity War so much? Because they manage to bring together the idea of strong women without making their characters stand up and say, “We can do this because we’re WOMEN.”

What I love about Birds of Prey is that it takes the Infinity War girl power route and, instead of basically saying those words out loud, it displays the power of its characters in a way that shows that all of these women are there extremely capable heroes/anti-heroes in their own rights.

Their fights aren’t about “wow look at me, I’m a girl taking charge of this situation, please give our corporate sponsors credit for this,” but rather, just women fighting to survive. In Birds of Prey, the scene that really drives this home for me is when Huntress, Renee Montoya, Harley Quinn, and Black Canary are all fighting to protect Cassandra Cain from Black Mask’s hitmen.

There are little moments that show the strength of these women (and it is the iconic hair-tie moment that broke the internet recently) but what really gets me is that these women are not just powerful, but they also care. Huntress, when Cassandra is worried and freaking out in the middle of everything, pulls her off to the side and hands her a toy car that she used as a comfort when her family was being killed. Helena hands it to her and tells her to close her eyes and just focus on it, and instantly goes back into protection mode.

That moment alone with “she’s not alone” shows that female empowerment doesn’t have to come from a “we’re women yaya!” moment, but rather, just understanding how a woman would fight. If I’m protecting someone, I’d make sure they’re okay, and sure, it’s badass watching a woman use the heel of her shoe to take a man out, but I think both of these moments give us a real sense of understanding just how powerful and amazing female characters are (and should be depicted).

Female empowerment doesn’t have to be an in-your-face moment but rather is in the subtlety of female strength. While we may not be these physically opposing beings from time to time, there is a different kind of strength to women and seeing moments like that of Infinity War and Birds of Prey reminds us that women use their strengths in different ways, and it is beautiful.

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh.

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