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'Feminist upgrade’ takes on ‘misogynist nonsense’: ‘Birds of Prey’ is teaching filmmakers exactly how NOT to sell a movie

Zachary Leeman
Zachary Leeman

is the author of the novel Nigh and journalist who covers art and culture. He has previously written for outlets such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and BizPac Review among others. Follow him on Twitter @WritingLeeman

is the author of the novel Nigh and journalist who covers art and culture. He has previously written for outlets such as Breitbart, LifeZette, and BizPac Review among others. Follow him on Twitter @WritingLeeman

'Feminist upgrade’ takes on ‘misogynist nonsense’: ‘Birds of Prey’ is teaching filmmakers exactly how NOT to sell a movie
Endless virtue signaling and preaching from its filmmakers and stars is almost guaranteeing that ‘Birds of Prey’ will flop and show people exactly how to turn an audience away.

‘Birds of Prey’ should be a movie that sells itself. Margot Robbie is fresh off a role in the hit ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’, DC just proved R-rated comic book movies can really blow up at the box office with ‘Joker’, and ‘Prey’ is a spinoff of 2016’s ‘Suicide Squad’, a movie that was already a financial hit with audiences (though not a favorite of critics).

DC’s latest comic book movie, though – in theaters this Friday – is already raising red flags. With a production budget of nearly $100 million (and a print and advertising cost that likely matches that), ‘Prey’ is being projected to earn $110-$120 million worldwide on its opening weekend, with around $50 million of that coming from the US. 

For perspective, ‘Squad’, the first film to star Robbie as ‘Batman’ villain Harley Quinn, opened to over $130 million in the US alone. And with reports indicating presales for ‘Prey’ are underwhelming, the flick could end up even worse off than the dire predictions are currently suggesting.

So what’s the problem?

All the hashtags

It’s tough to see the title ‘Birds of Prey’ pop up without sensing some virtue signaling right behind it. 

Actor Ewan McGregor, who already bragged about his character being partly based on Donald Trump, recently launched into a tirade about “misogyny” on ‘The Tonight Show’.

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The actor described the movie as “a film that covers some of the misogynist nonsense that you ladies have to deal with on a daily basis.”

This sort of pandering has been central to how McGregor sells the movie. It’s tough to find an interview with him where he doesn’t brag about bring “proud” of this “feminist” movie that targets misogynists and addresses oh-so important problems like “mansplaining.”

But it’s not just McGregor hitching this movie’s wagon to every trending social movement he can think of. Nearly every piece written on ‘Birds of Prey’ celebrates and breaks down just how much of a ‘feminist’ reboot this flick is for Harley Quinn after ‘Suicide Squad’.

Parade went deep into how costume changes made ‘Prey’ a "feminist upgrade” over ‘Squad’. 

Interviews with Robbie and director Cathy Yan are centered almost entirely around how their film redefines feminism, and how different it is from comic book adaptations like ‘Squad’.

“Yeah, it’s definitely less male gaze–y,” Robbie told Vogue of ‘Prey’.

“That’s what happens when you have a female producer, director [and] writer,” costume designer Erin Benach said of the film’s ‘feminist’ costumes. 

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Interest is so low for what should be one of the biggest movies of the year because, rather than basing promotion of the film around points such as a good story, or interesting characters, the marketing has focused on hashtag-friendly topics like feminism, mansplaining, male gaze, and misogyny. Why would those be selling points for a movie when people live with folks debating these very subjects on a daily basis?

Like ‘Suicide Squad’? You misogynist!

And there’s no better way to sink your sequel than by shaming people who enjoyed the original. While ‘Squad’ was no favorite among critics, it was a major hit for DC and turned Harley Quinn into an incredibly popular character for the company.

Talking up ‘Prey’ seems to almost always include subtle digs at ‘Squad’ and how “male gaze-y” that David Ayer-directed film was, and how this new flick is some kind of feminist reboot.

As the above quotes by Robbie and Benach show, if you liked the original movie, you’re essentially listening to filmmakers who profited from that product preach to you about why you were wrong to like it, and why you should like this new thing instead otherwise you’re hateful and not supporting feminism, or whatever trendy social movement they happen to be referencing that day.

‘Squad’ may not have garnered critical acclaim, but it earned nearly $750 million on a $175 million budget and launched a large amount of popular merchandise based around characters like Quinn. Despite the bad reviews, the DC film sat atop the domestic box office for three weeks.

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‘Birds of Prey’ should have taken a page from the marketing book of ‘Joker’, a film that earned over a billion dollars at the worldwide box office on a budget of only $55 million. 

Before ‘Joker’ was released, mainstream media reports hyped up the potential of violence at screenings, and social justice warriors tried to crucify the movie online by calling it too male, too white, too violent, etc. 

Meanwhile, the film never once fed into the frenzy. Actor Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips refused to box their work in by agreeing with any political takes. They kept the focus on the story and character, and it paid off. 

‘Birds of Prey’ is doing the opposite. Instead of relying on its story to spark debate among audiences, they’re trying to spoon-feed their own agendas straight into audiences’ mouths, and recent ‘woke’ flops like ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ should have taught them that strategy usually backfires big time. 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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