“Look at Daredevil. That’s where I found my wife. We met on Pearl Harbor, which people hate, but we fell in love on Daredevil. By the way, she won most of the fights in the movie, which was a pretty good predictor of what would happen down the road—my wife, holding swords and beating the living shit out of me.”— Ben Affleck on Pearl Harbor and Daredevil
Deadpool debuted as a stock villain in New Mutants #98 in 1991 and was not given his own series until 1993’s four-part series The Circle Chase; between these two milestones, in Deadpool’s 9th ever appearance, is the first time we see Deadpool flirt with the man in Nomad #4
Obviously, this is not a serious come on, but it set the groundwork for what would be Deadpool’s canon interest in men.
There are inumerous examples of this type of behavior throughout the entire publication of Deadpool’s self-titled series, spinoff series, and guest spot appearances. Here are a few to demonstrate the variety of occurrences:
He even flirts with well-established gay characters
And some of his most sexually explicit jokes tend to be directed toward men
"But he’s only joking"
The fact of the matter is that almost everything Deadpool does and says is framed in a comedic fashion, and yet the only canon aspects of this character that are systematically denied or questioned (with the excuse of it being comedy) are his “queer” tendencies.
The fans that deny these aspects of Deadpool are the same ones that deny he was raped by Typhoid Mary although the comic leaves no question as to the fact that she had sex with him without his consent and he became depressed and ashamed of himself because of it.
These fans get mad when you suggest that it was rape. They feel personally insulted because to them, the heterosexual male, Deadpool being raped makes him weak and unmanly. I suspect that this false view of weakness and unmanly behavior (or femininity) is rejected by these heterosexual male fans because they look up to Deadpool and this “weakness” threatens to reflect back on them. The same line of thinking goes to why they are so adamantly deny that he would never seriously wear women’s clothes.
(For more information on his being a transvestite, read this article)
It is this ignorance and homophobia of the majority of Deadpool fans, or, at least of his targeted market, that to address this character’s sexuality we have to first analyze the subtext involved.
Subtext is buttsex
The implicit meaning or theme of a literary text.
The underlying personality of a dramatic character as implied or indicated by a script or text and interpreted by an actor in performance.
In layman’s terms, subtest is a literary style to demonstrate an aspect of the character without explicitly saying to the audience. Subtext has often been used as a way to portray queer characters in a socially acceptable manner, commonly done through flirting jokingly
exaggerated stereotypes (also in the context of a joke)
and cross-dressing (you guessed it, in the context of a joke)
It seems unnecessary to depend on this literary tool when Western society seems to be so progressive and accepting of the wide array of sexual expressions and practices that humans exhibit, but the comic book/geek community is a subculture and as the study of sociology will show you, a subculture tends to reject mainstream normality, especially when that subculture is build upon alienation from society.
"But Deadpool has only been in relationships with women"
Technically, that isn’t true.
Aside from Copycat, Death is Deadpool’s most intense and long-lasting romantic partner. Although the entity is usually depicted to be feminine and has reproduced, it has no gender and has also manifested as a masculine figure.
Deadpool has also only been officially married once (and happily, for that matter) and that was to an alien creature of a completely different species. Although appeared effeminate it was not technically a human and therefore an argument of gender would be irrelevant.
And then we have Cable.
As we discussed in the previous section, subtext is an important aspect of defining Deadpool’s sexuality and his relationship with Cable pushed the envelope for what could be considered subtext.
At one point Deadpool is is forced to visualize his deepest, darkest desire and he sees himself rubbing lotion on Cable while at the beach.
The characters themselves considered themselves married (conveyed in our handy literary tool of humorous subtext) and is even acknowledged on Marvel’s website
Their final separation with the “death” of Cable was highlighted in what appears to be a confirmation on the extent of their sexual relationship:
"But there are gay characters within the Marvel universe, so if Deadpool wasn’t straight they would just say so"
Let us talk about Mystique. An iconic figure who is one of Marvel’s most popular queer characters. Mystique has the ability to change her physical appearance to that of any person she chooses and she uses this ability in various ways to impersonate and manipulate people; in doing so she has seduced people regardless of gender, the justification always being a nefarious purpose.
The relation between this and Deadpool is that despite the given intentions of their behaving outside what we would define as heterosexuality it doesn’t change the fact that it does occur and it is a part of that characters canon.
It was only recently revealed that the friendship between Mystique and Destiny, her teammate in Brotherhood of Mutants, was actually a domestic partnership in which the two openly raised Rogue as their child, and Nightcrawler was even originally intended to be their biological child (through Mystique’s ability to transform into a male.) But the characters continued to be written as seemingly heterosexual, caring for each other to the extent that would be appropriate in a friendship and they were never shown to have any intimate or overtly flirtatious interactions.
Of course these characters were originally written at an earlier time in which subtext had to be far more subtle than it is now, but this demonstrates that Marvel has and does implement subtext to establish imperative and far-reaching aspects of canon.
A more recent and lateral comparison would be between Deadpool and Daken; Daken having first debuted in 2007 and being a well-known pansexual, as I would argue Deadpool is.
Daken has only had semi-serious romantic interest in a woman and is seen sexual situations with men only to manipulate them for his nefarious purposes (exactly as we have seen with Mystique.)
Despite the underwhelming evidence of his bisexuality it was questioned until it was confirmed in 2009 by Marjorie Liu who said he “will do anyone and anything [to achieve his goals and he’s] past that kind of identification. He’s beyond it.” Daniel Way (longtime writer of Deadpool in many titles and of his video game) confirmed what is now established as Daken’s pansexuality by saying, “He’s no more homosexual than he is heterosexual. It’s about control.”
What does this have to do with Deadpool? Simply that a well-established pansexual character who debuted in a much more tolerant time has less evidence of his pansexuality then Deadpool does.
I have seen people talking about how Marvel not wanting to make a female-led superhero makes logical sense, because female characters don’t have as many fans as Loki, because a female-led movie will make less money, etc. I would like all of those people to know that they are wrong.
Targeting female audiences with genre films works. Even for genres that are considered (by stupid people and conservative studios) to be genres whose success relies on men, and this was proven really comprehensively in the 90s.
In the 1980s, teen slashers ruled, making buckets of money and drawing huge audiences. But by the mid-90s, the steam had died. Wes Craven, who had literally nothing besides teen slashers going for him, was understandably concerned. He looked at what kinds of movies were making money, and in analyzing the vast success of Clueless, realized that female audiences are prone to repeat viewings, which studios really love. Craven sat down with a screenwriter and decided to write a self-aware slasher film that was targeted towards women and girls.
The movie was Scream, which revitalized the dead genre of teenage slashers and launched the (arguably regrettable) trend of parody flicks. It wasn’t marketed towards women. Not only women saw it. It just focuses on its well-developed and complex female characters, and it did really fucking well.
But wait, you say! That was 1996. We are in a different century now. So let’s look at a movie that’s literally in theaters right now: Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. Studios have been trying pretty hard to achieve success with an original SciFi film the past few years, but even liberal application of Ridley Scott just kept leaving everyone with a vague sense of disappointment.
Gravity, if you’ve seen it, is a very woman-centric story. Sandra Bullock is undeniably the main character, and it is on her shoulders that the entire thing rides. Gravity has been a huge success, and studios are, at this very moment, developing new SciFi films because of it. The unusual key to its success? Repeat viewings.
Tl;dr: making genre films that focus on well-developed female characters makes you giant piles of money, and Kevin Feige is a stupid if he doesn’t take advantage of that. Perhaps Marvel Studios will realize this when people get sick of superhero movies and they stop making money, but I would really like a lady superhero movie before then.
Just to address the first two points in this brilliant takedown, I did some sleuthing:
01. Female characters don’t have as many fans as Loki.
Thor came out in May of 2011. But before then, Loki was hardly one of the most popular Marvel characters, let alone a serious candidate for a character that could headline and carry a successful movie. Unsurprisingly, a quick Google Trends analysis of Loki as a search term shows that interest peaked in May of 2011. Prior to then, none of the news headlines (that I could find) which featured the name Loki had anything to do with the Marvel character. And of the news articles searched in 2009, when the casting of Tom Hiddleston was announced for the character of Loki, the top-ranked one is referencing how Mickey Rourke’s pet Chihuahua, Loki, died.
So it’s clear that not only was Loki not an obvious choice for a fan favorite, it’s the casting of a compelling actor who engaged with his audience that prompted an interest in the character. And interestingly enough, the search term “Peggy Carter” has very nearly the same exact trend, following the release of Captain America. Good casting of a good actor, plus a script and director who are solid, equals fan interest. And that knows no gender preference whatsoever. So the idea that a character has to have a solid fan following and a strong character base before being given a full movie is bollocks. Fans who claim that a (female) character doesn’t deserve a movie because she doesn’t have a strong fan base tend to conveniently forget that when the first Iron Man movie was announced, the response was basically, meh, Iron Man? He wasn’t Marvel’s first-string character, and casting RDJ was a giant risk. A risk that completely paid off.
By the way, “Captain Marvel” and “Jane Foster” and “Janet Van Dyne” have even stronger trends. Which strongly indicates stronger interest. Granted, this is just one particular metric I am using, but other data-gathering sites suggest that women are by no means a small portion of readership in comics, we’re intelligent and hungry for well-written movies that reflect the diverse experiences of female characters, and we’re easily half of all comic-cons and overwhelmingly the majority of fan-created media and engagement online.
02. Female-led movies make less money than comparable male-led movies.
It’s all too easy to look at Catwoman and Elektra and definitively say that ‘women shouldn’t/can’t lead superhero movies.” Yet somehow, nobody ever does the same with Daredevil, Green Lantern, Green Hornet, Spiderman 3, Superman Returns, Batman & Robin, Batman Forever, Fantastic Four, the second Fantastic Four movie… Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever heard the argument that “Men just shouldn’t lead superhero movies” after one of them bombs. And that’s most likely because male-led movies are allowed to be shitty, campy fun, or just plain shit, because men are universal and “anyone can relate” to their “everyman” story, while female-led movies are judged, first and foremost and almost solely, on how the woman fits in with established paradigms of womanhood.
There are tons of female-led movies, and franchises, in the action genre specifically which made fucktons of money. The second Tomb Raider movie, The Cradle of Life, had a domestic gross of $65 million dollars, and is generally regarded as a piece of shit and yet another reason why women shouldn’t lead comic adaptations, blah blah blah, and yet R.I.P.D made half that (domestic gross of $33 million) and I haven’t heard a peep about how men shouldn’t lead comic adaptations. Or how Ryan Reynolds shouldn’t lead comic adaptations.
The Underworld franchises, the Resident Evil franchises, Hunger Games, these are all strong, female-led, action franchises. Snow White and the Huntsman made $155 million, and while Hemsworth is definitely easy on the eyes, it’s Stewart’s Snow White who is the leader, both of the film and of the war. This movie made more than The Bourne Identity. Is it fair to compare the two? No. But that’s the whole point.
When given the chance to have the same quality of writing, casting, the same budget for production and the same marketing, female-led movies do no worse than comparable male-led movies of the same genre. We just have such a smaller sample size to pull from, and it’s so much easier to be ten times harsher on female-led movies because they have to pass the woman-hurdle first, before they can be judged as actual, you know, movies.
As IO9 succinctly said,
When you look at the female superhero movies that tanked (or the unsuccessful female-led action movies generally) one thing stands out: They were horrible. We’re talking Supergirl, Catwoman, Aeon Flux, Elektra, Ultraviolet, Barb Wire, Cutthroat Island, and a few others. (Jonah Hex was similarly awful, but nobody says Josh Brolin should be banned from movies.) There isn’t a track record of decent female-led action movies tanking, but rather a moderate number of really terrible films that deserved to fail.
Here is an informal list of male-led movies which are adaptations of existing material, which are considered to be bombs: The 13th Warrior, The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D., John Carter, Jack the Giant Slayer, Green Lantern, Sahara, Cowboys & Aliens, Speed Racer… you get the idea. I’m not attempting to address the relative quality or merit of any of these films, because unlike some, I believe that true equality means that women should have the opportunity to lead just as many shitty films as men have, and not be treated to some high and narrow pedestal of “if you can’t do it perfectly/make every single viewer happy, then don’t do it at all.” But it’s my hope that female-led superhero and action films don’t have to be shitty. If they are shitty, let them be so on their own merits, not merely because a woman is in the lead role. Don’t give me the crappy excuse that there “aren’t enough fans” of a female character; you tell me how many fans there were of Cowboys & Aliens before it got greenlit.
I just want a fucking Black Widow/Wonder Woman/Captain Marvel movie, goddamnit. *mumbegrumble*
Here are some notes and images from Lois Lane, Girl Reporter, a pitch for a series of illustrated young adult novels I worked on a few years ago for DC Comics. Story by me, with considerable brainstorming help from my pal John Campbell, and art by Project: Rooftop fan favorite Daniel Krall.
My wonderful editor, Chris Cerasi, was a real champion of the series, which we codenamed “Project 77,” and while we had a great time working on it and finding this secret window into the DCU, it doesn’t look like the current leadership of DC is remotely interested in this kinda thing. I thought some Lois Lane fans here on the interwebs might at least like a look at what might have been…