Birds of Prey introduces a number of classic characters to the DCEU for the first time and establishes important details about their backstories, identities, and motivations. But the movie also finds the time to drop in a few interesting details about one Harley Quinn, a person whose presence in the DCEU is still evolving.
After making her debut in Suicide Squad, Harley’s gone from being an impractically dressed brawler of demons to becoming an independent, antiheroic crime boss in Birds of Prey, something that could put her back on Amanda Waller’s radar just in time for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. But in addition to cluing audiences into why Harley’s such a dangerous force of nature in her own right, Birds of Prey also delves a bit into her interiority in order to contextualise her motivations, and by doing so, the movie establishes a significant element of Harley’s identity.
Many people incorrectly assume that Harley Quinn’s origin story begins with the moment she first met the Joker in Arkham Asylum, but the reality is that Harleen Quinzel lived a whole arse life of her own for years leading up to that point. Birds of Prey opens with an animated sequence detailing Harley’s childhood during which a negligent father sent her away to live in a convent run by abusive nuns. Despite this horrible upbringing, Harley goes on to do well in school, graduating at the top of her class before going on to dominate the academic world where she eventually gets her Ph.D in psychology.
In a rather quick moment while describing her love life in school, Birds of Prey shows us three of Harley’s failed relationships—represented here by a slot machine in which we see Harley, a broken heart, and a person Harley was romantically involved with at the time. The first two of the people Harley dated are shown to be men, but the third is a woman, and while that tidbit of information isn’t at all emphasised, it’s rather major given the canonical complexity of Harley’s sexuality in DC’s comics.
Margot Robbie herself has acknowledged the character’s history of being involved with Poison Ivy in a variety of capacities that range from “very platonic good friends” to “very good friends who kiss and are in love with one another,” but before Birds of Prey, nothing about Harley’s depiction in the DCEU suggested she was anything but straight.
One of the big problems with Suicide Squad was the way the film made a point of framing Harley as the Joker’s girlfriend rather than a fully-realised person in her own right—there simply wasn’t much to Harley in the film other than her unhealthy obsession with the green-haired clown.
To be clear, the way Birds of Prey acknowledges Harley’s queerness doesn’t really factor into the movie’s plot, and Rosie Perez’s Renee Montoya is the character whose sexual identity the film actually ends up drawing your attention to in a significant way. But it’s a small detail about Harley that’s good to see making its way onto the big screen and, one hopes, is a tiny hint that Harley’s going to end up getting lost in the Green before too, too long.