Now that the holidays are over and we’ve already seen Star Wars at least once, if not twice, it’s time for the next big movie. For a lot of people, this will be the superhero story, Deadpool. I recently saw a Deadpool trailer and was, to be honest, not surprised at all. The trailer was called, “Blatant Bachelor Baiting TV Spot (w/2% real roses).”
It opens with Deadpool lying on a couch, holding a rose. “Oh hello!” He says. “You’re probably thinking, ‘my boyfriend said this was a superhero movie’. Well, surprise, this is actually—lucky you—a love story.” Begin superhero reason for existing, bad-ass shots of Deadpool suiting up and making giant leaps onto bridges, etc etc.
I found this trailer offensive for obvious reasons. The idea that a woman could never be interested in a superhero movie, would only be going because her boyfriend dragged her and is only interested in romantic comedies is a worn out idea that likes to skip along hand in hand with the laughable idea that a woman could actually be interested in nerdy things, like comic books and video games.
I’ll admit that the humor throughout the rest of the trailer was amusing. Deadpool manages to fight villains, all while maintaining a note of sarcasm, littered with jokes. So, I thought, maybe it was just this one trailer. Maybe it’s not as bad as I think.
Another trailer opens with Deadpool riding in the back of a cab, when he pops his head forward to talk to the cab driver (stereotypically an actor playing a South Asian cab driver), saying, “Kind of lonesome back here.” He struggles to get up front, bringing some comedy in his clumsiness, when the camera angle points up at his face from his crotch.
Later, after Deadpool spears a guy with his swords, he explains how this is a different kind of superhero story. The camera then pans across his butt, while he voices over the shot, explaining, “To tell it right, we got to take you back right before I squeeze this ass into spandex.” Cue background storyline.
This movie is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, they turn the male gaze on its head by showing shots of Deadpool’s ass and crotch, which would be great, as it plays on the ridiculousness of the usual pans across women’s butts. But these shots are done so with this mentality of “Haha, look at Deadpool’s butt, but no homo, man!”
Secondly, his whole motivation for becoming a superhero, while at first for noble reasons, winds up being mainly about getting back his woman from his worst enemy. It gets worse. Later on, in another trailer, while in the midst of beating up several criminals, all while in a high-speed chase, he throws a cigarette lighter socket in a guy’s mouth and says, “I never say this, but don’t swallow.” Cue my eye roll.
Towards the end of the same trailer, as a vaguely butch woman approaches him, he says, “Yeah, you’re way too much dude for me. That’s why I brought him.” He then gestures to a giant silver muscular giant, named Colossus. After the woman throws Colossus almost half a football field, Deadpool quickly responds with humor, “I mean, that’s why I brought her,” gesturing to an equally butch looking girl.
“Go get her, tiger!” He calls out to her as she runs to take care of business. Not only does it poke fun at the idea that any woman the least bit butch is more man than an actual cis man, but he also nullifies her effort by talking down to her as if she’s inexperienced at fighting. After butch woman #2 beats butch woman #1 up, Deadpool, awestruck and a little terrified, quips, “Oh I so pity the dude who pressures her into prom sex.” As if butch woman will (of course) respond to most situations with violence.
We’ve seen enough superhero movies like this, featuring a mostly white cast, with very few empowering female roles. The only possible hope against this is when Morena Baccarin, who plays his love interest, delivers her line, “I’ve played a lot of roles. Damsel in distress ain’t one of them.” Then she punches some guy in the face. I’m guessing this is the only scene in the movie like this. After doing a little research (since I admittedly don’t know much about Deadpool), I learned the movie has several female superheroes, none of whom seem to feature much in the trailers. I can only bet that in the movie the most they do is play a supporting role to Deadpool.
What is most troublesome about this movie is that it’s trying to be different, but is just playing the same game. Deadpool is the snarky anti-hero, all while saving the day. The trailers (and I’m sure the movie) turns the gaze onto a male body, but does so in a way that says, “Look how ridiculous this is, butt shots and all. It’s impossibly for a man to be sexy the same way a woman is.” At the end of another trailer, Deadpool shoots through three men’s heads all at once, pauses, snorts the smoke from his guns, sighs and says, “I’m touching myself tonight.” It feels like the equivalent of a college frat house, complete with a wealth of sexist jokes and the classic ‘suck it’ gesture of pointing to your crotch and thrusting your hips.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a breath of fresh air in the face of movies like this one. I’m sure there will be plenty of people getting excited to see Deadpool, but for the rest of us, we’re ready to move on past these overused jokes for something new.