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.