Where does Black Canary fit into all of this? Harley Quinn is fighting to take control of her life now as an independent, single woman. Huntress meanwhile battles her bloodlust and thirst for vengeance. On the surface Dinah Lance’s problems do not seem as simple or common. Yet, take a deeper look and we can get a good idea of how Dinah feels she has no control.
We are introduced to her as the singer at Roman Sionis’ club, where she has a ‘killer voice.’ Roman refers to her as his ‘little bird.’ Upon her introduction she is singing ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World’. With a title like that, can you say on the nose too much? Not exactly! This is a cover of an old James Brown song, which Rolling Stone critiqued as ‘biblically chauvinistic’. Over and over, the lyrics makes mention of all the great things men have built throughout the ages. However, these things would be nothing without a woman. The song spirals off here. Why would it be nothing without a woman? Objectively speaking, why? Can only women grant men any peace or happiness? In some way it seems this way, given Roman takes a liking to Dinah. He is enamored by her voice and fighting skills. When he learns of her betrayal, he begins to even weep. However, we can save that for a later time.
Beyond the material things of man’s world, one can say Black Canary certainly inhabits man’s world as something of a serviceable agent. She begins as a singer, only to be promoted to a driver for Roman Sionis. The driver bit is certainly interesting, given this role at times is saved for men, traditionally. We are accustomed to the cab drivers and chauffeurs and butlers driving the men around, like Alfred for example. One exception is Mercy Graves, who works for Lex Luthor. Aside from her, the occupation is filled by men. This may even go back to the sexist idea of women being bad drivers and how men drive the woman around when it comes to courtship and family outings. Oddly, it is a promotion within the world of traditional gender norms and roles. Yet, you can argue she is still serving a dominant male.
Dinah Lance comes off as almost apathetic in her day to day life. Given her attitude and personality, she does not seem the type outside city hall demanding equality now. Is she some kind of traitor and could care less about the plight of women? Not at all! We see two instances where this is not the case. She gives Cassandra Cain some advice and even sticks her neck out to save her. Some possible maternal instincts perhaps? She also begrudgingly saves Harley Quinn from attempted rape. Remember, she was not quick to jump in and rescue Harley from her would-be assailants. Dinah cared little for Harley at the bar and in one scene refers to her as ‘the asshole no one likes.’ During the rescue, Harley notes she does not need help, which Dinah snobbily responds with ‘are you sure?’. Through all of this we see that Dinah does have a heart...somewhere in there. But what keeps her closed off?
Later we learn of her mother, the original Black Canary through Detective Renee Montoya. She regards Dinah’s mother as a good woman and a hero, who helped people and especially the police. If anything, Detective Montoya sees Dinah taking up the mantle of Black Canary from her mother. We finally see why Dinah is the way she is, when she asks where was the help her mother needed, when she lied dying on the streets. This is how Dinah has taken control over her life. Yes, she can be the next Black Canary but why bother? She could move on or move up from Roman Sionis, depending on your preference. Again though, why bother? She’s making money, no one is asking for anything and she’s still alive.
If anything, Dinah Lance’s emotional behavior would be traditionally read as somewhat male like. Do not engage your emotions, do not bring them out and just keep everything bottled in. No doubt, some of you have heard this or even gotten this advice before. This is what makes her character so interesting I would argue, for it plays against the usual gender stereotypes. Dinah prefers to just not rock the boat or as least as possible. Things may be stable in her life, but the better consideration should be is she happy?
By the end of the film, we truly see a scene of her happy, with the rest of the Birds of Prey, sharing drinks and complimenting Huntress on her name. What Black Canary shows, not just to women but to everyone is taking control of your life does not mean having to bury your emotions deep inside. People like to believe by curbing your emotions, moving on and getting by is the best way to take hold of your life. Again, you may be stable to a certain degree, but are you truly happy and living or just present and surviving? We see like her mother, she has a desire to help people, such as in the case with Cassandra Cain. Only twice does she use that killer voice of hers, the first time seems by mere accident. Black Canary’s second time takes some persuading from her fellow ladies. Again, she feels as if she has no control and will only hurt people. Instead, it gives Harley Quinn the needed cover to rescue Cassandra Cain and put one over on Black Mask.
At first, she was the apathetic singer, working class kind of girl, merely coasting through on life. By the end of the film, she has control over her life, as a crimefighter in the Birds of Prey and enjoying the company of her teammates. We have everyone’s favorite psychologist to thank for that – Dr. Harleen Quinzel. And I suppose we owe a little to everyone’s favorite detective – Renee Montoya!