Caution: This Post Contains Spoilers
How can I say this any clearer? I flippin’ LOVED Deadpool. My husband and I went to see it on Valentine’s Day, watching it back to back with Zoolander 2 (which unfortunately won’t be mentioned again on this site). Sure, I had a feeling I would like this movie, but I walked away hardcore crushing on Deadpool.
Here’s how it stood up to the HerStoryArc Scale of Inclusivity:
- Not offensive to women 0/1 points
- Features a woman as the main protagonist and/or supporting character 2/2 points
- Passes the Bechdel Test 0/3 points
- Artistic and/or entertaining 4/4 points
- Above and beyond general media 2.5/5 points
- Total points = 8.5/15 or 50%
It might surprise you that a movie I just said I LOVED only gets a 8.5 out of 15, but the goal of the point system is to measure how much women are present, positively represented, and relevant to the story at hand. Much like the stand-alone Bechdel test, succeeding or not doesn’t necessarily mean a movie is or isn’t worth watching. Given that Deadpool is named for and mainly stars a dude, an 8.5 out of 15 is pretty good. I’d also like to take this moment to remind readers (especially of the hackles-raise-at-the-mention-of-the-word-feminism variety) that we are not implying that all movies should be scoring 15/15 on this scale. What we ARE saying is that NOT ALL movies should be getting a perfect score on the “movies featuring dudes” scale, and I’m pretty sure Deadpool would agree with me on this one.
Deadpool features four supporting woman characters: Vanessa Carlysle (the love interest), Blind Al (the roommate), Angel Dust (the muscle), and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (who is exactly what she sounds like). I honestly enjoyed each of them, and I felt that all four had at least one moment where they shined during the film. Which means I found myself in disagreement with a recently posted article on Bitch Flicks (a site I adore) entitled “The Women of ‘Deadpool“, whose author wrote:
“it’s disappointing to see a film work so hard to expose and subvert genre conventions in a hilarious way and then just turn around and fail to do that same work with its female characters”
While she is completely entitled to have that opinion, here is why I disagree. Let’s start with the character Vanessa. Vanessa is a prostitute who also works at a strip club. Wade (aka Deadpool) does not so much as blink an eye at her occupation, and in fact pays for her services in order to take her out on a date. They bond over how terrible their childhoods were, sharing a dark and twisted sense of humor that one adapts when the world has f***ed you over. Once they start dating, it can be presumed she continues with her current occupation, and indeed later in the film we see she is working at a strip club when Wade goes to reunite with her. Not once is Vanessa looked down on or treated derogatorily in the film due to being a sex-worker. She is also clearly in charge of her sex life and enjoys experimenting with Wade, which results in a lot of audience laughs as they try to incorporate each holiday into their trysts. I’m pretty sure the feminist in me high-fived a million angels after the “Women’s History Month” scene!
Oh yeah, and she frees herself from being captured and stabs a bad guy with a sword to save Wade/Deadpool from completely losing brain functionality. I don’t think that qualifies her as a damsel in distress, do you?
Then there’s Blind Al. Somehow she becomes Deadpool’s roommate during the interim period of his life not show in the film. She is a cantankerous black woman who can verbally spar with Deadpool and beat him at his own game. While Deadpool is a complete jerk to her, she holds her own and is a complete jerk in return. The two of them are a perversion of the Odd Couple trope, somehow finding companionship in how f**** up their lives are. Blind Al doesn’t give a s**t about what anyone thinks of her, and neither does Deadpool, which makes their banter some of the funniest in the film. Old women aren’t often allowed to have a lot of screen time, much less be a**holes simultaneously.
Deadpool: It reeks like old lady pants in here.
Blind Al: Well I am old, and I wear pants.
Ah, Negasonic Teenage Warhead. We were all introduced to her first in the movie trailers, as she held her finger up to Deadpool to hold on a sec’ while she finished tweeting during the middle of a fight. An exaggeration of the standoffish teenager trope, she doesn’t warm up to Deadpool so much as enjoy watching him make an a** of himself. However, despite not saying much, her brooding presence doesn’t waver in the face of battle, and she doesn’t back down from a fight. She looks for strategic ways to use her awesomely powerful nuclear explosion attack, as well as rescues Colossus from being strangled to death by Angel.
Speaking of which, I think my favorite scene in the movie is the fight between Colossus and Angel. As I stated already, the ONLY reason Colossus didn’t get strangled to death is because Negasonic Teenage Warhead saved him. When Colossus shows discomfort with a woman’s anatomy (he covers his eyes when Angel’s breast pops out of her shirt), Angel exploits his misplaced chivalry and kicks his butt.
In the Bitch Flicks article I quoted earlier the author found Angel’s role as “the muscle” to be limiting. In my opinion, it is refreshing to see a woman cast in in a role almost exclusively residing in the male trope category. I have a hard time thinking of any other film where a woman is the strong arm on the villain’s team (but please correct me in the comment section). Angel doesn’t seem all that intelligent, and she obeys orders readily, but when she gets the go ahead it’s clobbering time! Her character could have easily been a dude, but instead they chose to defy expectations and I applaud them for it.
There are other feminist attributes worth noting in the film. While, yes, we do have a pretty gratuitous strip club scene (somewhat justified by Vanessa’s employment there) we ALSO see Ryan Reynolds nude (both CG and actually) in various scenes, some of which felt catered to a woman’s gaze. Do two wrongs make a right? I’m not sure, which is why I didn’t give this movie any points in the “not offensive to women” category, so I’ll let you be the judge. I also appreciated that they didn’t have Angel and Negasonic Teenage Warhead fight one another. Too often the only women present are pitted against one another in climactic fight scenes.
One of the reasons I loved this film so much is because Wade has so many layers. I really feel for him when he struggles with losing his good looks, and it was gut wrenching when he decided to go forward with the questionable treatment to make Vanessa happy. It completely flips upside down the trope of a woman’s death being the springboard for a plot. In this case it is Wade’s own looming death, and him wanting to ensure Vanessa’s happiness, that provide the fodder for his origin story. I think the raw and honest emotions Ryan Reynolds brought to the screen are just as feminist a message as everything else I’ve mentioned. Men can be vulnerable, they can be vain, and they can be afraid of judgement, just as women are so often depicted as being.
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23 thoughts on “This Feminist Loves Deadpool”
Overall this movie was art. It perfectly depicted the character of Deadpool. The only scene that disappointed me was the strip club scene. Honestly, I found it downright distasteful. It wasn’t BECAUSE it was a strip club scene, it was because, compared to the rest of the movie, it felt like it didn’t belong. Yes I know Vanessa works there, but what I mean is that the lighting was terrible, the placement of the strippers wasn’t artful, and the whole thing felt as though the only reason it was included was because the producers wanted to portray objectified women because “sex sells”. It didn’t add anything to the movie in my opinion, and could have been filmed to be so much better. Barring that, I’d like to cut that scene from the film and then watch the movie again and again 🙂
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I think that scene is there just for Stan Lee cameo.
I sure hope that is not their only justification…
Sorry I didn’t see your comment sooner! Somehow I missed it until someone else tried commenting on it. Thank you for sharing your feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed the movie despite the stripper scene. I too wish that we could just enact a “no stripper scene” ban on hollywood, because I’m very tired of seeing them over and over and over again. As stripper scene’s go, I felt this was on the less offensive end, but you make a good argument for getting rid of it all together.
I loved Deadpool, and honestly – I thought that for an R-rated movie, they showed a little restraint in the strip club. Most scenes in strips clubs tend to have random shots of the strippers (beyond the initial establishing shot) that don’t show any of the characters in frame. Once they set up where they were, most of the nudity was in tracking shots as the characters moved, with the focus on the characters themselves. But I did find it extremely refreshing that Vanessa’s work was Vanessa’s work – out of all the things that were a punchline, it wasn’t treated as a joke by anyone other than Vanessa.
Definitely one of my favorite superhero movies.
I have similar feelings about how the strip club scene was filmed. Because you’re right, so often the camera forces us to gaze upon the strippers as if we were patrons, and in this case that entire scene was focused on the characters. I remember feeling worried on behalf of Wade that he was too late to find Vanessa
I’m glad to hear you loved it. I just saw it yesterday, and I immensely enjoyed it. I expected it to be hysterically funny of course, but I was also pleasantly surprised by how well the love story was handled. I totally bought their relationship, and I definitely noticed the movie made effort to show plenty of male nudity in addition to the expected female variety. So I also give the film props for what I’m gonna call ‘equal opportunity objectification’. Overall a brilliantly funny and unexpectedly romantic movie. Damn good stuff.
P.S. I hope you don’t take this wrong, but I couldn’t help but chuckle at you censoring all your cusswords in this review, given the subject matter. 😛
I totally censored and swore more in this post in general as a nod to the Deadpoolery 🙂
A fight between two women shouldn’t count for the Bechdel test in an action movie? :p
Not sure what scene you’re referencing – are you thinking of Vanessa and Angel after Vanessa gets the tape taken off of her mouth? I don’t think that counts as a conversation, but it could be argued I suppose. The Bechdel test isn’t as straightforward to prove as people think. Otherwise, there wasn’t much action fighting between the other mutant women.
Not movie related, but another show to try would be One Piece. Though not inherently feminist-friendly-looking at first (given the way women are drawn/dressed), there are tons of female characters who are portrayed as awesome, kick-ass, leaders/spear-headers, and both bad and good. There’s also a lot of hilarious components as well. The back stories are awesome, poignant, and heartwarming as well, once you really get into it. 700+ episodes though, so beware.
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I used to catch the odd episode of One Piece when it was on Saturday mornings back in the 00’s, and I remember enjoying it! There was an old lady pirate I remembering particularly liking 🙂
I would highly recommend it. It’s gotten better as the series as progressed.
Also saw Deadpool finally. AMAZING.
I’d be curious to know your thoughts on a film from 1953 called Tokyo Story…It’s probably one of the more prolific films to come out of Japan and it’s been called one of the greatest films ever made. It tackles some intense feelings of growing old and feeling alone as a single woman in post war Japanese culture after being widowed. It’s very good.
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“I have a hard time thinking of any other film where a woman is the strong arm on the villain’s team (but please correct me in the comment section).”
Just off the top of my head, I can think of at least 2 James Bond movies with women strong arm: Golden eye (she would later be Jane Grey in the X-Men franchise), and Grace Jones in A View To Kill. Even without leaving the Marvel world, there’s Mystic, who used to be pure evil, but is now more nuanced. Even Jean Grey kinda turns into the strongest mutant/supervillain/strong arm in xmen 3. I think you can kinda count one in the last Star Wars (if Kylo Ren is viewed as the top in this hierarchy).
I also thought of a bunch–so much so that I looked it up on TVTropes. The term for the Big Bad’s second in command is The Dragon. That’s not a female-specific term but I feel like there’s often a “lesser” female villain for the female good-guy to fight, thus making room for the male hero/villain to have it out in an even bigger battle.
Which is exactly why I asked people to correct me in the comments 🙂 Although I do think Angel has a different flavor than Mystique or the Bond women, in that those characters are much smarter than Angel is. I see her as a meathead almost, along the vein of Bane in Batman or something (not the more recent Bane, but the one from Batman Begins).
Completely, completely agreed with all of this!! I LOVED that they made Vanessa completely unapologetic for both her career choice and healthy sexual appetite. That is generally not done, especially in a superhero flick. And I wanted to jump for joy when not only did she free herself with the sword, but then she WENT AFTER the bad guy instead of just running away. YES! THANK YOU! I completely loved this movie too, and you’re review is spot on!
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Glad you enjoyed it! I’ve been eyeing every piece of Deadpool merch now too, wanting to add it to my collection, lol
I enjoyed the movie too, but I can’t say I would’ve given it even 8.5 points. Bitch Flicks is wrong in saying it subverted tropes–all it did was point them out, and then proceed to hit them one by one (both standard superhero tropes and treatment of female characters). However, I did like the distinct personalities of all the women.
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I went back and forth on how much to give for above and beyond, and ended up being more generous than not. It’s my favorite super hero movie now, so that is the lens I’m looking through! 🙂
Watched this movie over the weekend – didn’t expect it to be so funny! Certainly NOT for kids!
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Well-written, Lindsey! This was a thoughtful analysis of the movie.
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Thanks Kate 🙂