Birds of Prey Proves Action Movies Are For Women Too

We talked to the cast and filmmakers behind Birds of Prey about the idea that girls and women aren't interested in action films.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey

There has long been a prevailing idea in Hollywood that men are interested in certain kinds of films (action, science fiction, horror) and women are interested in others (romantic comedies, romantic dramas, romantic dramedies), with financial and creative decisions often made to make films in those specific genres for those specific genders.

This may be slowly changing, with films like Birds of Prey, a female-driven ensemble action flick, betting that there are lots of girls and women who like movies with killer fight choreography, stylized violence, and the high-stakes that come with gore—and, conversely, that female-fronted films aren’t just for girls and women.

“It is total nonsense. I hate it,” says screenwriter Christina Hodson about the idea that girls and women aren’t interested in action films when Den of Geek chatted with her last week in London. “I get it. Right now we do always have to be talking about female-driven action movies and female action movies, and it’s a thing. I’m so excited for it not to be part of the conversation.”

Margot Robbie, who reprises her Suicide Squad role as Harley Quinn for Birds of Prey, expressed a similar fatigue for the conversation.

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“I think we’re moving into a world where gender fluidity is obviously just becoming the norm, which is incredible,” says Robbie. “I hope that seeps into the film industry in a way that we don’t categorize what people like and don’t like. Because art is subjective. It’s like saying people only like that kind of music if they’re from this country. It’s ridiculous. I’m really happy that we can break the mold. Hopefully it will just be the new norm.”

While the action film fanbase has always included people of all genders, there are some action films that are better at welcoming girls and women into the narrative and action films that… aren’t.

“I think a lot of action movies weren’t necessarily made for women, or certainly didn’t treat female characters in the most respectful ways,” says director Cathy Yan. Traditionally, genres coded as “male” have few if any female characters. The ones that do feature women in speaking roles often cast the woman as the girlfriend character or, at best, The Smurfette. This is why Birds of Prey simply by having a cast of diverse woman automatically feels so subversive.

“I think that’s a really old fashioned notion, honestly,” says Birds of Prey producer Sue Kroll. “You know, just like you hear that guys aren’t interested in watching women in action films like this is. None of it is true. It’s all about a great story. This film in particular, I think it has a little bit of everything. The action is so purposeful and so exciting, thrilling and endemic to our world. You know, what’s not to love about it?

Birds of Prey hits theaters on February 7th. Hear more from our interviews with the cast and creators, including their favorite action movies, below…

Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.