Australian Council on Children and the Media

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

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Not suitable under 15; parental guidance to 16 (violence, themes and coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
  • a review of Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 February 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not suitable due to violence, themes and coarse language.
Children aged 15–16 Parental guidance recommended due to violence, themes and language.
Children over the age of 16 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Classification: MA15+
Consumer advice lines: Strong themes, violence and coarse language
Length 109 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

After The Joker ends their relationship, the unstable and volatile Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) decides to send him a violent message and simultaneously declare her emancipation. What Harley doesn’t realise is that her relationship with The Joker is all that protected her from the retribution of the numerous people she upset or harmed while she was with him. However, she quickly begins to see how many people want revenge for the pain she has caused, including Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) one of the city’s most evil and powerful men. Through a series of seemingly unrelated events Harley finds herself working with Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) a brilliant yet unrecognised cop, Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) a lounge singer with special talents and The Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a self-made assassin. Together the foursome work to save Cassandra (Ella Jay Basco) a young pickpocket who inadvertently stole and ingested the legendary diamond that Roman seeks to bankroll his evil empire. Ultimately, the unlikely allies must band together not only to save Cassandra and their city but also to save themselves.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Crime; abuse of power; serial killers; child abandonment and neglect; family and relationship breakdown; gender inequality; betrayal; mafia assassinations; vengeance and retribution.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Numerous fight scenes where individuals are hit, punched, kicked, flipped, thrown down and knocked out. You can occasionally hear the snap of breaking limbs.
  • Harley gets herself a crazy looking hyena and you can see the dog chomping on a severed leg.
  • A family is tied up, hung upside down and one by one their throats are slit and their faces peeled off.
  • An entire family, including children, is gunned down in their living room.
  • Harley shoots police officers with a shot gun containing a variety of colourful powders and balls. It knocks them out but doesn’t kill them.
  • Harley is tied to a chair and beaten by Roman’s henchman. Roman watches while eating popcorn. She is given till midnight to accomplish a task. If she fails, her face will be peeled off and pickled.
  • Harley’s apartment is bombed while she and Cassandra are inside.
  • Harley is shot in the neck with a tranquilizer dart. Later, with the same dart, she repeatedly stabs the man who shot her.
  • Men are repeatedly shot with arrows through the neck and a police officer is shot in the chest.
  • During one especially brutal fight scene there is stabbing, kicking and punching and a man is hit in the groin with a hammer. Blood splatters can be seen in the background.
  • A man is stabbed repeatedly after he tries to shoot Harley and the others.
  • Cassandra is tied to a toilet and is bound and gagged before she escapes only to be kidnapped by Roman’s men.
  • Harley is hit by a car in a chase scene that results in subsequent cars colliding and exploding.
  • Cassandra and Harley detonate a grenade that kills Roman. His body is blasted into pieces that fall into the water at the end of a pier.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Towards the end of the film when the women are cornered in a fun house, an army of Roman’s assassins descend upon them. All the men are wearing masks. Roman is wearing a particularly evil looking mask that could easily frighten young children. The menacing nature of the scene and the fact that a child is present and in danger is likely to disturb many young viewers.
  • Roman’s henchman shows the scars he has carved into his body. His chest is horribly marked and disfigured by all the cuts. Each one represents a life that he took. The man is incredibly creepy and evil and the image is likely to be upsetting for young children.
  • Roman has a variety of shrunken, tribal heads on display in his living room.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • In cartoon story fashion Harley tells how her father once traded her for beer, how she kept coming back to him but that he didn’t want her and eventually how he left her at a convent to be raised by brutal nuns.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Cassandra is being hunted by ruthless mercenaries who will stop at nothing to recover the diamond that she took. While she is tied up, one of Roman’s henchmen talks about cutting her open and slicing the diamond out.
  • The Bertinelli family massacre is shown in detail from the time that one of the children arrives home from school till the moment that the entire family is gunned down. The children holding hands and their parents trying to protect them.
  • A Japanese couple and their daughter are taken hostage after the father refuses to go into business with Roman. He is killed first while the wife and daughter cry and whimper in terror as his face is peeled off and held up for inspection. Next the mother is killed in the same manner while the daughter watches. The daughter is told she will be spared and then she too has her throat cut and her face peeled off. The scene is very dark and disturbing.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

It is likely that some children over the age of thirteen may also be distressed or concerned by the above-mentioned scenes.

Product placement

  • None noted.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • An officer is forced to wear a T shirt that says: “I shaved my balls for this.”
  • Harley gives Cassandra some advice about boys and tells her that if you want boys to notice you nothing gets their attention like violence.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Harley and most of the other female characters wear tight, revealing clothing showing lots of thigh and cleavage.
  • A man keeps kissing Harley, who is clearly drunk. He tries to get her into his van and it seems as though he will rape or harm her but before anything more can happen she is rescued by an unlikely ally.
  • When Roman thinks a woman has laughed at him, he forces her to stand on a table and dance for him. He then makes her date rip her dress off while everyone in the club watches her cry in terror.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Lots of drinking alcohol.
  • Harley claims that she gets her best ideas when she is drunk.
  • There are numerous club and bar scenes where patrons are drinking and one scene where women are snorting cocaine.
  • A police officer gets drunk and there is a reference made to her being a bit of a drinker.
  • Harley offers an alcoholic drink to Cassandra but Renee whisks it away before she can take a sip.
  • During a shootout a huge pile of cocaine is repeatedly hit by bullets causing white powder to fill the air. Harley sniffs it and seems to gain additional strength to fight her way through another group of mercenaries.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Extremely frequent use of the terms: “Fuck”, “Fucking”, “Mother fucker” and “Shit”.
  • The terms “Badass”, “Asshole”, “Bitch”, “Slut”, “God damn it” and “Dope” are used with less frequency.
  • A cop is called a “Piggy”.
  • The term “hoe” is used in a song.

In a nutshell

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) is a fast paced, action, fantasy based on the DC comics supervillain girl gang. The characters are well played, though few are very likeable. The plot is told in portions and Harley must often go back or explain a scene from a different perspective until the story eventually comes together and all the pieces fall into place. This, extremely violent tale, is not a family film and is best suited to older, more mature audiences.

The main message from this movie is that women may appear to be at the mercy of men who run the world but when females stand together to help one another and work towards a common goal, then they become unstoppable.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Friendship
  • Teamwork
  • Female empowerment
  • Compassion
  • Persistence.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • The use of violence to get what you want.
  • Choosing forgiveness instead of revenge.
  • The effect that negative actions have on others and how this influences their perception of you.
  • The importance of having a sense of connection and family.

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