Deadpool 2 revels in pointing out many of the overused narrative beats that other comic book movies tend to rely on when the writers decide to phone it in. Interestingly, the film’s shadiest dig is also one of its most progressive messages.
After years of various Hollywood studios choosing not to introduce any of the dozens of canonically queer comic book characters into their live-action adaptations, Deadpool 2 finally demonstrated just how goddamn easy it is to do.
Though she only appears briefly, Negasonic Teenage Warhead returns for a few key scenes in the film and during one in particular, she comes out as queer by introducing Deadpool to her girlfriend, Yukio. While Deadpool and Negasonic still don’t really see it for one another, the mercenary and Yukio become quick friends and their fondness for each other becomes of the movie’s recurring jokes.
It would be a reach and a half to say that Negasonic and Yukio really factor into Deadpool 2 in a big way, but their inclusion in the movie and the explicit mention of their being a couple is significant in part because of how small their roles are.
One of the most common (and frustrating) responses to critiques of films that refuse to include or even acknowledge LGBTQ characters is the idea that people are somehow agitating to make those films entirely about being queer. The problem with that line of logic is that it fundamentally misunderstands the fact that on-screen representation comes in a variety of forms, all of which are important for different reasons. Films like Moonlight and Dirty Computer delve into the inner lives of queer people and tell important stories about what it means to be a marginalized minority. Films like Deadpool 2, on the other hand, establish the reality that queer people, you know, exist in the world and are every bit as capable at playing superhero as our straight counterparts.
Today, GLAAD published its annual Studio Responsibility Index that evaluates how each of the seven largest studios in Hollywood have done in terms of making sure that LGBTQ characters are included in their movies. GLAAD gave Fox an “insufficient rating” for its slate of 2017 projects in part because many of them failed the Vito Russo Test and didn’t bother to actually identify queer characters as such.
Deadpool 2 similarly doesn’t pass the test, but the film does address a much more basic, though still pressing problem, that GLAAD’s identified—namely, that far too often “LGBTQ characters and stories are relegated to subtext, and it is left up to the audience to interpret or read into a character as being LGBTQ.” In Solo: A Star Wars Story, for example, there’s no way that audiences could fully understand that Lando Calrissian is canonically pansexual unless they’d read interviews with the movie’s writers. Deadpool 2's queer characters may be little more than slightly beefed-up cameos, but the movie leaves no room for debate as to what their relationship to one another is.
In truth, Deapool 2 definitely could have used bit more of Negasonic’s trademark deadpan one-liners and it would have been fantastic if Yukio was given more character development. But it’s important to remember that the movie isn’t really about them; they’re supporting characters and part of an already overstuffed ensemble. Obviously, Fox/Marvel would do well to make Negasonic and Yukio a larger part of the X-Men franchise if and when they pop up in future movies. But Deadpool 2's handling of the characters is commendable if only for the implicit point it’s making about other superhero movies.
In addition to explicitly acknowledging Yukio and Negasonic’s relationship, Deadpool 2 also builds on Deadpool’s own queerness, which is canon in the comics, but remains largely subtextual in the films.
After Vanessa’s death, it’s noticeable that Wade doesn’t spend all that much time flirting with any of the movie’s other few female characters. But he does jokingly hit on Colossus—something that Vanessa later acknowledges by telling Deadpool not to have sex with the metal man. Deadpool’s passing fascination with Colossus’ steely cheeks is a far cry from the way he’s pointedly come onto male characters in Marvel’s comics but at the very least, it’s a purposeful nod to that part of his personality.
Incorporating queer characters into a film’s plot is just as simple: All a screenwriter has to do is simply decide that a character is gay, bisexual, trans, or any combination of LGBTQ+ identities, and give them a few lines acknowledging that fact. These characters already exist in the source material, but the real beauty of it all is that literally any character can be reimagined as queer—and there’s no reason they can’t be.
It’s wild to think that studios somehow still find this concept baffling, but here’s hoping that after Deadpool 2, those with decision-making powers finally realize there’s no longer any excuse as to why they can’t get this right.