Deadpool is Normal(ly Terrible): A Queer Critique of Deadpool 2
In a twitter argument with a fan concerned about 2SLGBTQ+ erasure in the Deadpool comics, one of the comics’ writers, Fabian Nicieza, wrote “[Deadpool’s] brain cells [are] in CONSTANT FLUX so he is hetero one minute, gay the next, etc…” This representation of non-heterosexuality is, however, not without its issues. I want to question the politics of Deadpool’s particular variant of non-heterosexuality as presented in Deadpool 2 (2018). Deadpool is currently the only 2SLGBTQ+ main character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and his film debut was excitedly awaited by 2SLGBTQ+ audiences.
The Deadpool films focus on Wade Wilson (Deadpool), a former special-forces operative who is soon diagnosed with terminal cancer early in the first film. A mysterious organization recruits Deadpool, promising to cure his cancer; but they do so by torturing him and turning him into a super-soldier. The remainder of the first film sees Deadpool hunt Ajax, a lead scientist from the organization, seeking revenge and a way to reverse the transformation.
Deadpool 2 begins two years later with a failed suicide. We learn that Deadpool is trying to kill himself because his love interest, Vanessa, was shot and killed by a group of criminals Deadpool was pursuing. After Deadpool’s suicide attempt, Colossus reassembles him, he recovers, and then joins the X-Men. On his first mission, Deadpool discovers the abuse of a young mutant, Firefist, and attempts to take revenge against Firefist’s tormentors. As a result, both Deadpool and Firefist are arrested and sent to a mutant prison. Deadpool soon escapes and then makes plans to free Firefist. The plan is complicated by a time-traveller named Cable who wants to kill Firefist. Firefist escapes and turns against Deadpool. Near the end of the film, Deadpool and Cable unite to save Firefist from becoming the supervillain that eventually destroys Cable’s family.
Throughout Deadpool 2, Deadpool’s non-heterosexuality is used for comedy, and to excuse bad behaviour. The most significant example of this use of comedy is Deadpool’s sexual assault of Colossus, a large and hyper-masculine character. Deadpool gropes Colossus’s ass when the other character embraces him in a hug. When Colossus angrily removes Deadpool’s hand, Deadpool immediately returns it. Here, Deadpool’s non-heterosexuality is a comedic tool. His behaviour is within the realm of expectation for toxic masculinity; but because the recipient is another man, we laugh at Colossus for not expecting such behaviour. Another example is the monologue where Deadpool announces he has “gone international” fighting “mass murderers, gangsters, unspeakable monsters. People nobody would touch.” Deadpool is delighted to add, “Except me. I’m gonna’ touch them all over.” This last sentence—said in a sexual tone—relies on the motif of 2SLGBTQ+ people as hyper-sexed predators and makes light of sexual assault. All of this also normalizes sexual assault within comedy, standing in frightening contrast against the #MeToo movement.
Beyond comedic depictions of Deadpool’s sexuality, the film also comments on sexism. Deadpool forms a team of superheroes that he names “X-Force.” He says this name is “forward thinking” and “gender neutral” as compared to “the blatant sexism in the [X-Men’s] name.” While the film may have these ‘woke moments’ speaking to sexism on a surface level, it completely lacks awareness of trans identities. Most gallingly, when Deadpool’s partner Vanessa announces that she wants to have a child, Deadpool responds by saying: “I want a boy! Or a little girl! Definitely one or the other.” This joke relies on a binary model of gender, erasing the experiences and legitimacy of those outside of the socially constructed sex and gender binaries.
The politics of Deadpool’s sexuality are a reflection of our society’s cis-heteronormativity. Scholars like Jasbir Puar and E. De Dauwdiscuss how people gain access to privilege through participation in white, middle class, and cis-heteronormative ideologies. Deadpool, a non-heterosexual subject, is granted access to privilege through his participation in cis-heteronormativity. As such, Deadpool’s potential queerness is easily dismissed as comedy and he gains access to personhood through his toxic-masculine gender performance, heterosexual relationship, and cis-heterosexist behaviour. He may be in “constant flux” as Niciza writes, but it is significant that Deadpool’s non-heterosexuality only emerges as comedic ploys—as a queer clown.
If any element of Deadpool is relatable to a queerness, it is the way that Deadpool is refused a happy ending. Heather Love and Sarah Ahmed have noted how queers are often disallowed happy endings, and that queer lives must be understood within narratives of loss and misery. Deadpool’s life is the same. When Deadpool finds love he is diagnosed with cancer. Later, when Vanessa says she wants to start a family, she is promptly murdered. However, near the end of Deadpool 2, Deadpool’s life is saved by the only thing he has to remember Vanessa by: a metal token that stops a bullet from piercing his heart. I interpret this as Deadpool’s heterosexual connections saving him from queerness and death, so that he can go on living with his new family of fellow superheroes.