Why 'Gotham City Sirens' Feels Like A Missed Opportunity To Spotlight A Female Director

When Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn returns to the big screen, she'll be bringing some friends along. No, not her Suicide Squad. Instead she's taking a page from Taylor Swift and teaming up with an all-female squad. Robbie will be starring in Gotham City Sirens, a film that focuses on DC's female super villains. The movie, based on the comic series that ran from 2009 through 2011, features the all-female team of Batman baddies — Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and botanist turned Gotham City's worst eco-terrorist, Poison Ivy — taking on the world. 

The movie seems to be continuing the comic's girl power theme by hiring Robbie not only to star, but serve as one of the movie's executive producers. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the script for DC's first female-driven comic book movie will be written by Geneva Robertson-Dworet, the woman behind the latest Tomb Raider remake with Alicia Vikander. While there is no word on who will play the other two female villains or when this film will be released, it has been announced who will direct this female-led film. But, in a rather surprising choice, it's not a female. 

David Ayers, who helmed Suicide Squad, will re-team with Robbie for this new film. Now, is it just me, or does that feel like a missed opportunity? This movie was a chance for Warner Bros., who is producing the film, to show that they support women both onscreen and off. It was also a chance to make a little history by making Gotham City Sirens their second comic book film to be directed by a woman. The first being Wonder Woman, which was directed by Patti Jenkins and hits theaters in summer 2017. 

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DC Comics is already ahead of Marvel in this department, being that Marvel has yet to hire a female director for any of its big screen superhero movies. But, this isn't for lack of trying. They did try to get Ava DuVernay to direct Black Panther, but she turned it down saying she “just didn’t see eye to eye” with Marvel. Disney has also said the upcoming Captain Marvel — Marvel's first standalone female superhero film, due out in 2019— will be helmed by a female director, but have yet to announce who it will be.  

All of this is not to say Ayers isn't deserving of the role. While the critics may not have loved Suicide Squad, it didn't stop movie goers from flocking to the theater. The movie, which focused on a rag-tag group of both male and female villains (sound familiar?), made nearly $746 million at the box office worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo — making it the 13th highest-grossing superhero release of all time domestically. Ayers also seemed to have good working chemistry with Robbie, who was by far the standout in his previous film.

But, being that this is an all-female movie, it feels wrong to not see a woman's name alongside the words "directed by." It's not because women can only direct female action movies or superhero tales, but it seems like a good place to start. Especially when so few women get to make such high-budget films. These female-led action movies are no longer just about championing female heroes onscreen; they're also a way to champion female voices behind the scenes too. Having a woman behind the camera can help better tell these powerful female stories. 

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Not to mention, having a women direct in this instance could help make sure that this all-female villains movie will be for women, rather than just men. Too often these characters are portrayed as eye-candy when they should be portrayed as strong women. A woman may be more mindful of that and make sure that Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Poison Ivy are given costumes that are functional instead of sexy. A female director can make sure the movie gets at the core of these characters that have often been portrayed as cartoonishly bad women, rather than something more complex.

Pushing female character furthers is something Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot, talked about after working with Jenkins. "I’m lucky in that I’ve worked with men who have a lot of respect for women," she told Entertainment Weekly earlier this year. "But working with a woman is a different experience. It feels like the communication is different. We talk about emotions." There is something different about having a woman tell a woman's story. There's a deeper understanding that shouldn't be overlooked. 

Ayers' Gotham City Sirens will be his own, and I don't want to insinuate he can't tell a strong female story. Obviously, he turned Harley Quinn into a big-screen star who can hold her own. Yet I can't help but wonder what this film would have been like with a female director. Let's just hope with the next female-driven comic book movie, I won't have to.

Images: Warner Brothers; Giphy (2)

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