Deadpool 2, Negasonic Teenage Warhead
Tag: opinion

Deadpool 2 is one of the most low-key progressive blockbusters for on-screen representation

Contributed by
May 24, 2018

Movies like Wonder Woman and Black Panther left both the film industry and audiences in awe, both for their craftsmanship and because they showed that diversity sells and travels. Even though we should celebrate those films' success, we should still be critical of how this representation happens when it does.

It is not a matter of quantity but, above all, quality of representation. Deadpool 2 plays a crucial role in the argument because it not only tries to change the landscape but shows through its meta jokes that studios (or, at least, writers) are aware of the lack of diversity on screen.

Deadpool 2 is, well, a Deadpool movie, so all the expected meta jokes are here, as well as our hero, who is still questioning where the hell the X-Men are. The anti-hero's second outing ends up being a more mature film than the first, mainly because the jokes are not only better-written but so well-knitted to the main plot that they felt more organic. The narrative doesn't stop for a joke — the joke happens within it. Deadpool 2 shatters the fourth wall again, but now, it does so when the fourth wall needs to be shattered.

The film accomplishes more and not in a "George W. Bush" kind of way — one of its best jokes — exactly when it breaks a fourth wall often ignored: the problem with on-screen LGBTQ representation.

Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Yukio

Source: 20th Century Fox

Here, Deadpool makes constant, self-aware references to being in a film, so it sounds intentional when Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Briana Hildebrand) talks about her relationship with Yukio (Shiori Kutsuna). "This is Yukio. She's my girlfriend," she tells Wade Wilson. Later, Wade gushes, "You're such an adorable couple!"

The girls are not simply close friends — they are dating, and the film not only makes their romantic relationship clear but shows how other superhero films could play with that idea (while still never fully acknowledging it). A picture of Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan behind two fans in cosplay of their respective Captain America and Winter Soldier kissing in a future Avengers or Captain America film comes to mind.

But, in the current climate, it seems Marvel wouldn't go that far in one of its films. Take Black Panther, a landmark movie for African-American representation on screen that ignored a canon queer storyline when adapting characters from Marvel's comics.

The structure of Deadpool 2 allows it to talk about the industry's problems by not only adding diversity to its plot and cast but also by directly talking about it. Just take that scene in which Russell/Firefist (Julian Dennison) talks about wanting to but never being able to become a hero. "When was the last time you saw a plus-size superhero?" he asks Wade.

Russell's point gets bigger and more important if we remember some of the recent reports about films like Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and, more recently, Solo: A Star Wars Story and the way they all chose not to deal with LGBTQ representation. Either those films cut scenes with LGBTQ content or they didn't shoot them despite their screenplay writers' claims that their characters were bisexual (Valkyrie from Thor) or pansexual (Lando from Solo). But this is not how narratives or character building and development work. If a character's sexual identity not shown through some action or spoken about outright, it cannot be considered part of that universe.

Characters are what they do and say inside the narrative; hence, adding some diversity outside the narrative sounding cowardly and suspiciously like queerbaiting, a trend almost as problematic as the lack of representation. Queerbaiting sends a signal that studios know there are people longing to see themselves represented on screen. But, rather than showing any real representation and taking some amount of risk, the studio throws in hints (or "bait") to appeal to audiences who desire true representation.

So, the most important wall Deadpool 2 breaks is the fake-representation-in-major-studio-films wall. Kudos where kudos are due. As Firefist says, "This industry discriminates." He knows it and the audience relates to that because it also knows. At the end of the day, major studios still need to push the envelope on LGBTQ, Latino, Asian, African American, female and other representation on screen. Cinema, as any other art form, must reflect society — and society is diverse.