Deadpool’s Shaky Feminism

dp(warming! spoilers ahead. please, I’m serious, don’t read this if you don’t want to be spoiled. k thanks)

As I left the theatre with my friends last night, I eagerly turned to them for my favourite part of every movie (especially movies I enjoy): tearing it to shreds. “So! Didn’t you think the feminism was a little shaky?” I earned blank looks and a few half-hearted efforts at defense. “I mean,” one of my friends said, “if you compare it to any other Marvel movie it did really well.”

It’s during moments like this when I really miss my family. No matter how good something is, no matter how much we liked it, after a few comments about how great it was in order to assure the group that we did, in fact, enjoy it, we dive like sharp-taloned vultures onto the carcass of our joy and rip it into teeny tiny bits. I love this process. I don’t just want to be a consumer – I want to engage with my media.

Obviously, this isn’t for everyone. A lot of people find my attitude towards the whole thing overly critical, ruining the fun, and, if those facial expressions were any indication, kind of confusing and annoying? – and I respect that. Everyone is going for a different thing when they walk out of those black walls (remember when movie theatres looked cool? now they just look like a badly painted university black box theatre). To each their own and more power to us all! BUT, since I didn’t get to gleefully tear Deadpool apart last night – I’m going to do it now.

So first off, blah blah blah, I liked Deadpool. I think you figured that part out. Now, on to the matter of shaky feminism! This movie felt like a first year university class after the teacher suggested that while writing the script, they should keep an eye out for issues like representation of women. Weirdly, I think the fact that it IS so much better than other Marvel movies (as my friend asserted) has pretty much made the entire internet go, ‘yay! progress!’ and kind of ignore the problematic elements. I can’t find a single article (even Mary Sue) pointing out the Feminism 100 issues with this movie.

So, you want to write a feminist movie, I imagine the film 101 professor saying. (The professor is a white man, obviously.) Figure out who your main characters are. Obviously they are men. Okay, now give each of them a female sidekick. Adding more female sidekicks makes it better! Okay, cool, now you have three female characters so it’s totally cool if you kidnap the girlfriend in the most stereotypical “chick on a railroad” plotline ever because no one will notice because the super awesome woman over there is kicking butt against that man (and seriously, let’s take a moment to admire how super awesome Angel was. Except for how she had no agency and followed Ajax’s commands like a pitbull and had no story of her own or even lines. did she have lines? She might actually have been mute, I can’t remember. I think she was mute).

The thing is, having women isn’t enough. Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely progress, and I’m glad for it. We’re moving in the in the right direction. Vanessa was a good character (until for no reason at all they stuck her in fishnets and a garter belt) with actual dimensions and purpose (until they made her a prop for Wade, almost literally, by tying her to train tracks while cackling maniacally), and Angel Dust was physically refreshing (incredible fighter, really different body build than the cutout women we usually see).

The issue for me (other than the afore-mentioned cackling idiot girlfriend kidnapped plotline, which should not be glossed over in terms of how pathetic it was) was that every woman was paired up and subservient to a man. We had Angel Dust, who followed orders to the point where it seemed at times like she wasn’t even capable of autonomy (grab him! hold him! no shit sherlock). Then we had Negasonic, who didn’t necessarily act subservient the way Angel did, but who was a trainee to Colossus – literally subservient to him, though not in a demeaning way. Add to that the total lack of a single female soldier (not that this is uncommon) and finish with the cherry that was Vanessa’s complete lack of autonomy (really, in a Deadpool movie, we don’t even get a beat where she has to take a moment to be okay with his face? or even better, a fake out screaming fit? that would have been hilarious. but is probably off topic).

Speaking of off-topic, how does broken glass that isn’t strong enough to survive a single sword hit strong enough to survive being tossed like four stories? But I digress.

On topic again, the lack of autonomy manifested as Vanessa ultimately being nothing but the prize at the end of Deadpool’s journey. Really, at this point, is that a good ending for her? Deadpool is broken in a whole new way. He is mentally ill, in a way he wasn’t before: homicidal and deranged. Sure he loves her, but he also talks to invisible people and tells cab drivers to murder their romantic rivals. This is all funny to the audience (we know we aren’t invisible), and he makes a great anti-hero… but a person with a relationship? Uhhhh… yeah maybe no? RUN VANESSA RUN!!!!!

Ahem.

So, anyway. I had fun tearing that to shreds! I hope you’re like me, and had fun reading it, because the internet is all about people who like (and hate) the same things coming together to complain about how their friends don’t get them. Wait, no, that might just be me. (I love you! my friends, I mean, not you the strangers of the internet. well, I love you too).

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