Sunday, June 19, 2016

Direct to camera

Ever since Deadpool hit theaters my friends and family have been trying to convince me to see it. It's not that I didn't want to see it, or that I thought I wouldn't like it, it's just that movies take time and planning and frequently all I want to do with my downtime is veg out online or read.

So my sister basically forced me to watch Deadpool last Tuesday on our family hangout night and I enjoyed it enormously.

I thought it was hilarious, exciting, erotic, and just all-in-all a splendid romp. Except for one thing.

Spoilers - in case you care or haven't seen the movie or know nothing about the character.

Wade's whole conflict is that he's ugly? Really? That's why he doesn't tell Vanessa, the woman who loves him and whom he desperately loves, that he's still alive and can't be killed by cancer? Are you fucking kidding me?

Ryan Reynolds is an incredibly attractive man, with great cheekbones and a winning smile and delightful abs. I can understand that a person who is very attractive would be upset by no longer being conventionally attractive, and would go through a period of mourning and depression, but holy shit, the way this is handled is so fucked up.

I happen to know a man who was very badly burned in a car accident a long time ago. I don't mean to be unkind to him when I say that his skin bears a strong resemblance to Deadpool's post-mutation skin. He's a kind and lovely man who has a happy family and a good life. His scars don't enter the equation, he's a great guy - but I'm certain he gets looks from people who don't know him, I'm certain he's had to explain his scars to a lot of people, and I'm certain he's been called a freak. For a huge, big-budget movie to reinforce that scarring is unacceptable and that being physically beautiful is important is somewhat staggering. The amount of attention paid to Deadpool's appearance and the horror at his scarring is profoundly disconcerting in a world where real people exist in their day-to-day lives with more severe injuries and less superheroic outcomes.

This is so bizarre to me. Wade no longer has cancer and is functionally immortal, but won't return to a woman who is convinced he's dead because he's worried about how he looks? I mean he makes a point of leaving so she won't have to watch him deteriorate because of his cancer, he wants her to remember him how he was. CAN WE TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT ON HOW FUCKED UP THAT IS? There are thousands of people in the world who are currently dying of cancer. It's hard and it's horrible and it is, yes, ugly. But that in no way means it's the responsibility of people with metastatic cancer to spare healthy people the pain of being around them, and to imply that it is noble to do so is pretty gross.

I've heard lots of people talk about how progressive Deadpool is, and there's a lot going for the movie in that way. The writers were very careful to be respectful to women in general and female sex workers in particular, but there's an awful lot of ableist assumptions about health and wellness and wholeness floating right on the surface that I've not heard anyone talking about.

Like, I enjoyed the movie - I thought it was very funny and exciting to watch. But I was not expecting that sort of aggressively ableist thinking from a film that so many laud as a new kind of progressive action movie.

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