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THE B-LIST: Feminist fiction that packs a punch

"Birds of Prey (And The Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)" hit theaters last weekend, and if you haven't seen it yet you absolutely need to clear a space in your schedule.

The first superhero movie directed by a woman of color (Cathy Yan), it's a cotton-candy colored, neon lit, ultra-violent takedown of misogyny starring a diverse cast of bodacious babes and a killer soundtrack.

Also, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn has a pet hyena named Bruce ("after that cute billionaire") that eats a disgusting jerk within a minute of its appearance. Absolutely fantastic.

Amidst the bone-breaking — seriously, there are a lot of broken legs and skulls — iconic bisexual fashions and fierce female dynamics, there are plenty of hefty themes:

• Rosie Perez's Renee Montoya is a middle-aged Latina lesbian cop who's continually belittled by her captain (who stole her work to rise to the top).

• Jurnee Smollett-Bell's singer Dinah wants free of her controlling, violent, narcissist boss/the film's supervillain.

• Helena Bertinelli (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is seeking revenge for the slaughter of her family.

• Teenaged pick-pocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco) has abusive foster parents and a diamond the baddies are willing to kill her for.

• And, of course, there's the narrator, Harley Quinn, who's struggling to pull herself out of a toxic codependent relationship with Gotham's biggest clown and is constantly told she's nothing and nobody without her infamous ex.

This is definitely a movie that will resonate more with the ladies in the audience than the men.

Personally, I've been feeling pretty angry about a lot of things (politics, the state of the world, patriarchal nonsense at every turn), so "Birds of Prey" is a timely bit of catharsis. If you're in the same boat, here are some other recent recommendations full of righteous feminist fury:

1. "HARLEY QUINN" (DC Universe animated series). If you're hungry for more of Gotham's colorful Rogue's Gallery after "BoP," this is sure to satiate. Like the movie, Harley (Kaley Cuoco) has split with the abusive Joker (Alan Tudyk) and moved in with straight-talking BFF Poison Ivy (Lake Bell).

The deadly gals then set out to prove their worth as criminal masterminds, building their own crew of henchmen and demanding the respect of the all-male Legion of Doom.

There's violence and profanity galore in this strictly teen-and-up cartoon, and a heavy emphasis on the nurturing power of female friendships. I give it an enthusiastic chef's kiss.

2. "THE WITCHER" (Netflix series). While the titular hero, Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill), may be the focus of this (far superior to "Game of Thrones") fantasy series, it's also crammed with powerful, angry women, from sorceress Yennefer (Anya Chalotra) to Queen Calanthe (Jodhi May) and the vengeful Renfri (Emma Appleton).

And these ladies are complex. Calanthe is an impressive warrior queen who drops truth bombs at every turn ("I bow to no law made by men who never bore a child."), and yet she's also a genocidal war-monger whose pride damns an entire kingdom. Talk about conflicted feelings.

Then there's Yennefer, a part-elf sorceress who was born deformed and became beautiful by sacrificing her fertility — only to later regret that harsh compromise. Yenn's issues with her body, self-worth and anger really resonated with friends who struggle with their own chronic health problems, and she's another outspoken lady who hates how women are devalued in a patriarchal society.

3. "THE SUN DOWN MOTEL" by Simone St. James. Hitting stores next Tuesday, St. James' latest ghost-laden thriller was written expressly for ladies obsessed with true crime.

Its dual narrative follows both Viv Delaney in 1982, as she works at the haunted Sun Down Motel and pursues a serial killer, and her niece Carly Kirk in 2017, who comes to the Sun Down hoping to solve her aunt's disappearance and finally find closure for their family.

"You're not trained for this," a character tells 20-year-old Viv at one point, who concedes that she's not a cop or judge. "But I'm a potential victim," she counters. "That's my experience. How was it always girls who ended up stripped and dead like roadkill?"

"Motel" is a heavy story, to be sure, with plenty of sadness for the girls who never went home again. But it's also deeply satisfying at its climax, full of righteous rage and violent revenge. When the news gets you down with stories of broken restraining orders and unchecked misogynistic violence met with mere slaps on the wrist, this book is required reading.

• ANGIE BARRY is a page designer and columnist for The Times. To suggest future topics for The B-List, which covers pop culture, history and literature, contact her at

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