The Women of ‘Deadpool’

Deadpool Movie Poster

Written by Amanda Rodriguez | Spoilers ahead


The newly released Marvel “superhero” movie Deadpool is more of a self-aware, raunchy antihero flick that solidly earns its R rating with graphic violence, lots of dick jokes, and a sex scene montage. It mocks the conventions of the genre while still giving us its warped version of a superhero origin story, a tragic love story, and a revenge story. Basically, it’s a good time. While Deadpool is entertaining, self-referential, self-effacing, and full of pop culture references, how does it measure up with its depiction of its female characters? The movie sadly does not pass the Bechdel Test. However, there are four prominent female characters worth further investigation.

Vanessa Carlyle 600

Vanessa Carlyle (Morena Baccarin) is Wade’s/Deadpool’s (Ryan Reynolds) love interest or as she’s billed in the intro credits “The Hot Chick.” She’s a salty sex worker with a dark sense of humor that matches Wade’s. They quickly fall in love, and Vanessa is unfailingly loyal to him. While it’s good to see a sex worker in the role of love interest in a way that doesn’t shame or belittle her for her profession, Baccarin once again fulfills the “hooker with a heart of gold” trope. (Her role as the Companion Inara in Firefly also fits that bill.) Vanessa is the quintessential damsel in distress, as she is, unsurprisingly, the bait during the final showdown that Ajax (the big baddie) uses against Deadpool. While her self-confidence, her no-bullshit attitude, and her nerdiness are all admirable qualities AND it’s refreshing to have a woman of color as a leading lady, Vanessa is, unfortunately, a variation of the standard action movie love interest without much agency or identity outside of her relationship.

A la the opening credits, we also have “The Moody Teen” a young, surly, gum-chewing X-Men known as Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). Negasonic has very few lines and exists to fulfill the role of angsty teen. Her mutant powers, however, were interestingly changed from the telepathy and precognition of her comic book iteration to “localized atomic detonation.” Though I’m usually a purist, this change created a female character who played an active role in the film’s climax in a way that successfully embodied her angst and was pretty badass.

Blind Al

A twisted version of the buddy trope plays out with Deadpool and his roommate Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), an elderly Black woman who inexplicably associates with our antihero. From the comics, we know that the two have a dark relationship with a much darker version of Deadpool than the film depicts. Al seems to exist in this movie only to give the rough, sarcastic, morally flawed Wade more depth of feeling.

Angel Dust 600

Lastly, we have Angel Dust performed by my ever-beloved Gina Carano. Angel is a mutant with superhuman strength who acts as Ajax’s muscle, right-arm woman, and bedfellow. She’s the strong, silent, torturing type who gives X-Men’s Colossus a sound beating before he’s able to turn the fight around and claim victory. There is no depth to her character. She is your garden variety sociopathic killer henchman.

While Deadpool‘s blunt humor and self-awareness are a refreshing addition to the superhero genre, the intro credits set the tone for all the other characters (male and female) who fall into traditionally prescribed archetypes. While I recognize the meta-humor in this, 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. Fingers crossed that the inevitable sequel will ingeniously develop a female character to match Deadpool’s one-of-a-kind personality.


Bitch Flicks writer and editor Amanda Rodriguez is an environmental activist living in Asheville, North Carolina. She holds a BA from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio and an MFA in fiction writing from Queens University in Charlotte, NC. Her short story “The Woman Who Fell in Love with a Mermaid” was published in Germ Magazine. She writes all about food and drinking games on her blog Booze and Baking. Fun fact: while living in Kyoto, Japan, her house was attacked by monkeys.

8 Comments

  • ShortMlee
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I saw the film this weekend. It was humorous and yet very disturbing. Still had a ton of sexist jokes as well as homophobic ones against queer women. And yes it didn’t pass either the Bechdel or Bechdel 2.0 tests. None of the female characters got to truly interact with each other, and that was sad.

  • mara
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    True…stereotypes, formulaic, and is no where near passing the Bechtel tests…but not once did I hear a woman being called a “stupid bitch” so overall a win for a comicbook movie/video game…looking at you batman and associated games.

  • Romantic Placebo
    Posted February 23, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    Gotta say, the most unrealistic part of the film for me was when Angel took time to bandage up Francis after Wade skewered him.

    C’mon, she’s the type who would tell him to walk it off, not play mommy.

    • Karlijn Scholten
      Posted March 8, 2016 at 3:14 am | Permalink

      I saw it more like a ‘cold and mandatory’ patch up. Not loving, but let’s change the tire on this car and move on.

      • Romantic Placebo
        Posted March 8, 2016 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, but I don’t buy she would care about him. Her character’s relationship to the experiments wasn’t very clear.

  • Vrka
    Posted February 26, 2016 at 2:48 am | Permalink

    Well I do admire the work they did with the little time, support, and budget they had from fox compared to other movies.

  • Peach
    Posted March 3, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    Honestly I hope NTW gets more developed if they make a sequel, I loved the character and I know a LOT of others did too despite her small role, plus Brianna Hildebrand seems like a sweetie!

  • Doodlee Pigvirus
    Posted April 6, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    i was very annoyed that they depowered Vanessa, then used her as a damsel. i want a “Rise of Copycat” sequel.

2 Trackbacks

  • […] Deadpool fails to pass the Bechdel test, but how does it fare when it comes to the inclusion and depiction of women? […]

  • By This Feminist Loves Deadpool on February 21, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    […] myself in disagreement with a recently posted article on Bitch Flicks (a site I adore) entitled “The Women of ‘Deadpool“, whose author […]