Birds of Prey
Birds of Prey is a 2002 television series, revolving around women superheroes: Helena Kyle (AKA Huntress) and Dinah Redmond, lead by wheelchair-ridden technology expert Barbara Gordon (AKA Oracle) in the city of New Gotham. These three fight crime, all while trying to lead personal lives. Meanwhile, the nefarious Dr. Harleen Quinzell tries to take control of New Gotham.
Birds of Prey, on paper, is promising if you look at the first episode, attracting 7.6 million viewers. The series was created by the same woman who co-wrote 2019’s Alita: Battle Angel. Yet, somehow, the rest of the series received ratings so low The WB canceled it. It was only sold on DVD 6 years later, and included all three seasons of Gotham Girls to sweeten the deal.
I don’t think this series was as bad as it’s ratings suggest. I’m not terribly shocked that it only had one season, but that doesn’t mean that I thought it was bad. There were plenty of aspects of the show that worked. For example, the characters were all unique and different. Dinah’s upbeat and a troublemaker. Helena’s angsty. Barbara’s wise. It’s also not often that you see a TV series with an almost entirely female cast and female villain. From a feminist perspective, this series triumphed. Issues like fridging didn’t occur. Also, some of the female characters may be sexualized, but in a way that felt less like objectification and more like empowerment. Especially for a series made in 2002, this is excellent, and almost makes the series worth the watch just for this reason.
The villain of the series, Harley Quinn, is vastly different here then in any other portrayal of the character that’s ever come to fruition. Here, she isn’t the airheaded, heavily accented, heavily objectified woman we usually see her as. The childish pigtails are replaced by a mature pixie cut. She’s a career woman who has her job as a psychiatrist throughout the series. Here, she’s the boss, and not the Joker, and has her own goal of taking over Gotham. The Joker doesn’t show up once in the entire 13 episodes. This Harley Quinn is probably one of my favorites, solely because she goes against the usual stereotypes assigned to her. She’s so different that it’s hard to even think of this Harley as being Harley Quinn. The only things that connect the two are the name and the job as a psychiatrist. Ultimately, this is a positive change. Most versions of Harley Quinn describe her as little more than a violent manic pixie dream girl. It’s nice to see her be someone else.
The series does suspense really well. For example, there was one scene, and this is a spoiler, so if you don’t like spoilers, skip to the next paragraph, where a man made of water is causing Huntress to drown by shooting a stream of water directly into her throat. While she’s drowning, she can barely hear Oracle tell her what to do, and can barely make it to the object that’ll cause her to damage the villain. In that moment, the suspense was killing me.
The ending was mostly satisfying, despite the fact that the series was supposed to get a second season and didn’t. The series wrapped up very nicely, and didn’t have any cliffhangers like shows often do. Almost everything tied itself up in a neat little bow, except for one character who dies suddenly and who’s death isn’t properly grieved. Other than that, the show ends up reading like a full series, even when there was supposed to be more.
Unfortunately, this series did get cancelled for a reason. Part of the series’ issue is that it was a TV series made in 2002. There is a nostalgia factor that was added, and that’s not to be discounted. This series was very much a series made in the early 2000s, everything from the clothing to the hairstyles to the transitions prove it to be so. If you’re hankering for some early 2000s nostalgia, this series does provide.
However, the downside of the series being made in 2002 is that you could tell the writers had very little idea what the budget for this series would be, which you can see by the plethora of excessively cheap looking shots. Part of the series looks less like a network TV show and more like a Neil Breen production. The shots of the city of New Gotham look particularly cheap, with a city that looks so fake it almost seems intentional. It looks like they took a number of different photo clips of buildings and poorly pasted them together without care or concern so as to what they looked like. The clock tower is another prime example, looking like it was from a High School Theatre Production. The gears of the clock don’t even connect to each other. The fight scenes aren’t much better. They range from being mediocre to horrible. There wasn’t one fight scene where I felt invested in what was happening. Part of the problem was that they weren’t well coordinated and part of the problem was that they were all basically the same. Oftentimes, I felt that they only ever filmed one fight scene, and copy/pasted it throughout the rest of the series.
The Writing for this series was very much hit or miss. Originally, the show included clips from Tim Burton’s Batman movies, suggesting they were going to share continuity. This makes sense given how it’s written. Like many series’ at the time, the writing is very cheesy. A lot of the dialogue sounds nothing like anything an actual human might say, and so if you require that, this series might not be for you. If you’re fine with a show’s dialogue being similar to that of the TIm Burton movies, then you’re not going to mind the show’s dialogue at all. But, for those of you that like realism, this might not be for you.
The acting is pretty much the same. There are actually some pretty notable actors that worked on this show, most notably Shemar Moore of Criminal Minds acclaim, who also plays a detective in this series. Aaron Paul appears in the first episode, but only briefly. There are also several actors where Birds of Prey was one of their most notable works, and you can tell by their performances. They act like they’re in a soap opera. This isn’t to say that they’re bad, it just means that, just like the writing, it’s not in everyone’s taste.
Birds of Prey may be cheesy, and may have poor production value, but it’s refreshingly feminist and entertaining too. If you have the time, check it out!
Birds of Prey: Feminist, fun, and fervently tacky
- Writing - 7/107/10
- Storyline - 7.5/107.5/10
- Acting - 7.2/107.2/10
- Music - 7/107/10
- Production - 5/105/10
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