What Will Make A Harley Quinn Spin-Off Great? Women. A Lot of Complex Women.
A Harley Quinn film full of female characters has the opportunity to be a very powerful film -- provided it's allowed to be brave, bold, badass and unequivocally female.
There’s a new superhero film on the horizon, and apparently it’s going to be full of female superheroes and villains. While there are few details about this project at the moment, The Hollywood Reporter reports that the DC film in the works at Warner Bros. is a Harley Quinn spin-off film that’s finally going to make a few more of DC’s best female characters a part of its cinematic universe.
According to the very few details that’ve surfaced, this is not a solo Harley Quinn film. Rather, it’s a spin-off that’ll include a number of DC’s female heroes and villains — Quinn, of course, but also the likes of Batgirl and Birds of Prey, which includes Black Canary, Huntress and Lady Blackhawk, among others.
An ensemble of DC women has the opportunity to be a really fantastic and powerful thing — but what does a movie like this need to do in order to be an outstanding addition to the burgeoning DC Cinematic Universe?
Its Characters Need Real, Independent Plots, Personalities, Backstories and Motivations
This film has the opportunity to introduce a hero-loving public to a slew of new DC heroes and villains. But in order to make people care, you need characters who are multi-faceted and deliciously complex. The movie-going public loves a good origin story and this film is going to need to introduce us to these characters ways that makes us care about what happens to them.
Beyond that, these characters will need to have clear motivations that we can understand and relate to. This is one of the fundamental rules of creating characters, and it’s vital that these heroes appearing on the big screen for the first time are given compelling motivations that drive the plot forward. They’re every bit as captivating and powerful as Batman or Superman, and they deserve the setup and investment given to those characters.
Its Female Characters Need To Interact In Meaningful Ways
Even now, in 2016, female superheroes aren’t exceedingly common in the bevy of big-budget superhero films. In those relatively rare instances when female heroes are a part of the blockbusters, until we actually get Wonder Women and Captain Marvel, they’re relegated to background roles that are limited in their exploration.
If this film is going to be an ensemble of female superheroes and villains, those characters are going to interact and that interaction is going to have to be meaningful, significant and gripping. We want to see them fight, work together, understand each other, agree, disagree, do wrong and do right. What we don’t want is our female superheroes split up in different scenes, interacting mostly with men except for a few moments where they come together for proverbial sword-clashing that includes banter but is devoid of impactful interaction beyond some well-placed punches. The fights should be every bit as set up and ideologically significant as those we see in superhero films with men.
Regardless of the criticism thats been slung at the Bechdel Test for its simplicity, it remains an important metric for evaluating the treatment of female characters in a film. And, to put it bluntly, this film has the opportunity to pass the Bechdel Test so completely that it’ll make people wonder why we’ve had so many men in movies all these years.
It Needs Female Storytellers, Filmmakers and Perspectives
The Hollywood Reporter reports that while there’s no information on who, exactly, is working on the script, someone is at work writing it and that someone is a woman.
Having women behind this project is of vital importance. The vast majority of the people in creative leadership positions on big Hollywood films are men, but that can’t be the case for this film. A film about female superheroes and villains need to have a female creators, perspective and leadership.
This film needs to be the effort of not just one woman, but a bunch of women. It needs a female writer, a female director, and plenty of women on its creative and leadership teams. These aren’t just superheroes who happen to be women — they’re women and they’re heroes and both parts are important, inextricable elements of who they are.
We need women behind the film because no one knows women better than women do and what we need from this film isn’t just your average superhero film but with women instead of men. We need a film that doesnt gloss over the fact that these heroes are women, but proves that they’re strength comes in large part from who they are, not just their powers and abilities.
It Needs Female Voices and a Female Focus
While we’re on the subject of female storytellers and perspectives, it’s key that these female characters aren’t just a part of the film, but that they are the film. It might sound obvious, but the sad truth is that women aren’t always the focus of films that are supposedly about them. Detailed [script analyses like the one from Polygraph show that in the overwhelming majority of films, male characters have most of the lines.
Furthermore, this film doesn’t need a big presence from The Joker or any other male character to be successful. It doesn’t need the help of a male superhero to broaden its appeal. The idea that female led and driven films can’t pull their weight at the box office is absurd — audiences will turn out for good films.
This film doesn’t have pander to or appease fans — it just needs to be great. And here, a big part of being great means being boldly, bravely, unequivocally female.