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Vanessa’s Storyline in Deadpool 2 Was a Huge Misstep in an Otherwise Fun Film

Morena Baccarin in Deadpool 2 (2018)

**SPOILERS FOR DEADPOOL 2.**

In the first Deadpool movie, Vanessa was a character I really enjoyed. Very rarely do we see sex workers in movies treated with romantic value that doesn’t revolve around “saving them” from their profession. The fact that Vanessa was allowed to be a prostitute without shame was one of the many subtly progressive things about the first movie. So, when she was murdered at the beginning of Deadpool 2, I wasn’t only shocked. I was really disappointed.

Women in Refrigerators,” as it was coined by comic book writer Gail Simone, is a concept that is almost 20 years old as of this point and is one of the more common feminist terms known in the comic world. It basically refers to the killing of female characters in order to emotionally motivate male characters. It’s broadly and commonly discussed. That’s why I have some doubts that the writers of Deadpool 2—Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, and Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds—had no idea about the concept, let alone the term, as they claim in an interview with Vulture.

When asked if they were worried about criticism for fridging Vanessa, as well as co-anti-hero Cable’s wife and daughter, Reese told Vulture, “I would say no, we didn’t even think about it. And that was maybe our mistake, not to think about it. But it didn’t really even occur to us. We didn’t know what fridging was.”

However, in the original drafts of the film, according to them, Vanessa didn’t die. She just broke up with Deadpool, and Wade spend the rest of the movie trying to win her back. They changed that because “Deadpool kind of works best when he’s had everything taken away from him, when he suffers.”

Except that Vanessa isn’t a thing. She’s a person, and if the narrative frames her only functions as girlfriend, potential mother, and beyond-the-veil moral compass, then she might as well be a lamp.

I mean, if the whole point of this film is Deadpool trying to stop Cable from killing Russell as a teenager, before he grows up to be a murderer who kills Cable’s own family, why can’t Deadpool be motivated about that because he is also a victim of abuse? Why can’t Wade and Vanessa both want to protect Russell because maybe they have this family fever? Her death is just a trope and, to a degree, just lazy, since they end up retconning it in the post-credit scene, and Vanessa is 100% alive again. Why even do it, then? Especially when originally, according to them, she was going to stay dead.

Wernick hopes viewers will understand that they killed Vanessa because she’s the only thing Wade cares about. “So if you’re doing a movie where you are trying to get Deadpool at his lowest, to take away everything from Deadpool at the very beginning, the only thing to really take away from him is Vanessa.”

Again … Vanessa is not a thing. Look, when you have a character like Deadpool, who is as wily as the day is long, “domesticating” him into a traditional sphere is limited to begin with. While I like Vanessa, the idea that they now want to have babies is … boring. Why can’t they just keep fucking and then have a poly relationship where Wade can embrace his pansexuality and deep sexual desire for Colossus? They can come up with some sort of campy reason for the Cable v Deadpool conflict. Maybe when Cable appears, he destroys Wade’s favorite chimichanga place? Yeah, it’s ridiculous, but that’s the point. They can do anything, because Deadpool is the kind of character that makes anything possible.

For Wernick, this choice wasn’t about gender; it was about family. “I know it wasn’t consciously sexist. It may appear that way as the film progresses and Cable loses his family as well, but again, the desire was to give a motivation to both Cable and to Deadpool, and have it be a parallel motivation that they both lost their family, and they’re both trying to kind of find their way in the world without them.”

But again, Cable doesn’t need a dead family to motivate him. Why not have him desire to stop an insanely powerful mutant who has killed hundreds of people? Maybe have Russell kill his team. Hell, Cable even says that “our generation” fucks up the world. If you have time powers, why not go back to fix that?

There are just so many other choices besides dead girlfriend, dead wife, and dead daughter.

“I also think we definitely paid attention to trying to fill the movie with a diverse group of strong female characters, interesting, different female characters,” says Reese. “Whether it’s Domino, or Negasonic Teenage Warhead—and Vanessa, herself, obviously, is certainly that. So we’ve definitely made a point of not having this just be a testosterone-fueled thing.”

Except the only woman who really does anything is Domino, who is epic. Negasonic Teenage Warhead and her girlfriend, Yukio, which is the first on-screen Marvel LGBTQ couple (though still not Marvel Studios), only have like 3 scenes total, and they’re short. Colossus gets twice as many lines as they do.

But before anyone starts: What about all the dudes who died in this movie? Well, even if we could count all the characters who die in the movie, here are all the men who play key roles in this film: Deadpool, Cable, Russell, Colossus, Weasel (ew), and Dopinder.

Women who play key roles: Domino and Negasonic Teenage Warhead.

“Strong female character” doesn’t just mean looking cool, it also means getting to live and getting to actually participate beyond lip service. Negasonic Teenage Warhead gets two action seasons, despite being the breakout of the first Deadpool movie. How does that make sense?

Overall, I really enjoyed Deadpool 2. I think I preferred the first half of the first Deadpool, but the second half really made this one. From the time the X-Force assembled to the end of the film, I was with it 100%. It’s a fun movie, and like I said, the X-Force bits and beyond are pretty much constant hits. Yet, I think Deadpool 2 really illustrated my biggest problem with the character of Wade in the movies. He’s too typical of superhero stories in how his desires are orientated. Let him want to save the world because Jane the Virgin isn’t coming back or because Get Out didn’t win Best Picture. It works just as well.

(image: FOX)

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