Birds of Prey - The Fight For Control
Detective Renee Montoya hardly has it easy in Birds of Prey. Historically speaking the character has always come from a place of adversity. Here we have a female, Latina cop mind you. Traditionally, the police are a male dominated career group. Add Latina and gay to this, you have a recipe for trouble for Detective Montoya. Already, Latina women make roughly 60 cents for every dollar a white male is paid. Fall back on gender stereotypes and age-old racism, Latina women do not clean up crime, they clean your house, office and or room. What is Montoya looking for?
Rosie Perez plays our favorite lesbian detective or at least...our only one it seems. Early on we see that Renee Montoya is a perfectly competent detective. She single-handedly figures out Huntress’ hit at the restaurant. It is Montoya who fingers the killer as one person, noting how they wanted to watch the last victim suffer. When Ace Chemicals blows up and evidence is found, it is Detective Montoya who pieces it together as Harley Quinn. She even humorously and correctly surmises Harley’s action as “She just publicly updated her relationship status.” Meanwhile, she’s building a case up against Roman Sionis – The Black Mask. Now why hasn’t she made captain? Simple, some dude got in the way.
Believe it or not this scenario is not too uncommon. Instead, her partner took the credit for her past accomplishments and became captain. One historical case is Albert Einstein, which is its own story all together. You can find other cases, like the three black women behind NASA as you know from the film Hidden Figures. Another great example is Hedy Lamarr who helped to bring you wi-fi, but people rather credit her as just another pretty face and actress. Renee Montoya is entering a world, which has historically taken all control and credit away from women. Do not forget her occupation as a detective in the Gotham City Police Department. Right away we can easily see this is something of a boy’s club. Many equate police officers with a violent, aggressive history of brutality and male superiority. Think of them as the ‘dude-bro’ types or the high school football players. Again, this is not a blanket statement, not all policemen follow this characterization but it is lodged deeply in the collective minds of many, regardless of race or gender. She’s a lesbian, which in some settings like this the men will see you as ‘one of the guys’ in a sense, but not always respectfully and you are still hardly an individual. It also does not help she is not overtly feminine. Note when Harley Quinn offers her the bullet-proof bustier, Montoya sneers ‘You’re kidding.’ In Renee Montoya’s setting, I dare say they would take her more seriously if she just got them coffee while in a skirt, for she’s just a little girl trying to play at a man’s sport they see.
How does Renee Montoya take control then? One way is through an old lover, who is also a district attorney. A head detective and the D.A. tackling the captain together, nothing can go wrong, right? Unfortunately, this plan fails. It is interesting for Montoya to keep her ex in her life, since this is not always common among many people and traditionally, not the norm. Montoya having her ex around in her life to a degree certainly gives her some control in her life. I may add it gives her leverage over her boss as well. Yet, things are not all rosy. Renee’s ex is quick to scold her for her drinking.
Drinking, yes a tad bit cliché' but common in many people’s lives. Some people can only find solace in drinking. Many drinkers will feel that the bottle will numb or drown out the pain or sorrow. They haven’t the will to tackle their problems and seek the help they truly need. Instead, they surrender to the bottle to more or less backpedal their problems for them. I dare say Renee’s ex buckles some male viewer’s unruly interpretation of the film as ‘girl power.’ Many are probably aware and even unite behind the motto of women got to stick together. This motto is nowhere to be shown in Renee’s relationship with her ex. Sadly, Renee is better off without her if she cannot help Renee with her job and only scolds Renee for her drinking, rather than offering any substantive help at all or intervention.
Strength in numbers did not work and neither did alcohol. Renee Montoya finally takes control in the epilogue of the film by more or less saying ‘ah fuck it all’. She helps to bring in Black Mask and his cohorts but again, her former-partner and current boss takes all the credit. Again, this Latina, gay woman is fighting an uphill battle in the patriarchal society of Gotham City. We see her job is important to her in the sense of cleaning up the streets and delivering justice. Fighting crime is not just a means to put food on the table, but an important ideal for her. Hence, quitting her job to pursuit a vigilante lifestyle is not too hard for her. A decision as such is not too unheard of. We see this with many characters, like Batman for example. This is not too dissimilar from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy as they equate the laws and rules as ‘shackles’ from doing the right thing. Montoya is throwing off the shackles of both man’s laws and man’s rules over her in both a literally and figurative sense. Besides, what other career can she take up where she can spout out lines that were written for Miami Vice?