Diverse representation is an important topic of discussion across all of cinema right now, but because of their prominence, superhero films are particularly scrutinized. Deadpool 2, the latest major superhero release, managed to inject quite a bit of diversity into its cast, and has earned quite a bit of praise for its uncomplicated depiction of a relationship between two superpowered women. There's another kind of diversity in Deadpool 2, though, one that often gets overlooked amid all the spandex but which one of the film's stars wants to keep calling attention to: diverse body types.
For Julian Dennison, who plays the mutant Russell (aka Firefist) in the film, the Deadpool sequel is a breakthrough into American cinema that should generate all manner of new opportunities for him going forward. After his breakout role in Taika Waititi's Hunt for the Wilderpeople in 2016, the 15-year-old Dennison is now one of the most recognizable stars of one of the biggest films of 2018, and he told The Hollywood Reporter he's hoping to use that success to "tackle the award-winning films" as he moves forward with his young career.
He's also hoping that his work on Deadpool 2 will do for other kids what previous superhero films didn't do for him: show them a relatable, interesting superpowered character who also happens to be chubby.
"There isn’t just one kind of person that can play a superhero,” Dennison said. “For me, playing a chubby or fat superhero was so special because I would go and watch these movies with my friends and would never see anyone like me. I am excited to be that for other kids who look like me.”
Ever since Superman, modeled after circus strongmen, first appeared on the page in 1938, superheroes have almost always been drawn to represent a certain kind of physical ideal, and while it makes sense that a lot of the characters would be in peak physical condition because of the daily doses of action and combat (also, you know, Super Soldier Serum) they take every day, that's not the only way to depict superpowered people. Recent successes like Marvel's Squirrel Girl and Valiant's Faith have shown that superheroes with different body types don't just work within their fictional words, but also work to relate to more readers who don't look like Catwoman or Captain America. Dennison is now a part of that on the big screen, and he's not the only one who hopes characters like Firefist will keep showing up in superhero cinema.
Deadpool 2 is in theaters now.