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Abigail Nussbaum @NussbaumAbigail
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1. I keep going back and forth over whether #Deadpool2 is a genuinely smart film or a trashfire of toxic tropes. Therefore, a thread, with major SPOILERS.
2. In the first ten minutes of #Deadpool2, Wade's beloved girlfriend Vanessa is shot and killed by a criminal he'd previous tried and failed to kill. Deadpool is the target but Vanessa gets in the way.
3. As has been widely reported, when @abrahamjoseph interviewed the film's writers, they claimed to be ignorant of how this plays into toxic tropes about the disposability of women.…
4. I want to focus on this for a second, because despite the (natural) emphasis on the Women in Refrigerators trope, this is by no means something unique to comics.
5. Wade and Vanessa have an idyllic romantic interlude in which they talk about starting a family, and then bad guys with guns barge in and kill her. That's not a comics thing. That's an "every other work of pop culture for a hundred years" thing. #Deadpool2
6. So for a film that hangs its hat - rightly or wrongly - on its genre-savviness, and on calling other films on their lazy plotting, to employ this trope with seemingly no self-awareness is genuinely bizarre and not a little embarrassing.
7. As if to add insult to injury, the opening credits, which start right after Vanessa's death, replace the cast and crew's names with expressions of shock, of the "I can't believe you did that, you bastards" variety. #Deadpool2
8. Whereas the reaction I was feeling was less "how dare you" and more "really? this again?" So it's the classic comics approach of telling your audience how they should feel about your story, a la Infinity War and HydraCap.
9. Honestly, at that point I was seriously debating leaving the theater, but I'm glad I didn't. Because, intentionally or not, #Deadpool2 ends up being a really interesting examination, and even deconstruction, of the fridging trope.
10. Deadpool's reaction to Vanessa's death isn't the kind of manly vengefulness that we're used to seeing from the partners of refrigerated women. Rather, it is crushing grief, depression, and suicidal urges. #Deadpool2
11. Nor is the thrust of the movie Deadpool's search for Vanessa's killers. He gets the last of them within minutes of her death, and tries to commit murder-suicide with him (he only succeeds at the first part). #Deadpool2
12. When Colossus, one of the film's most moral characters, offers to help Deadpool find Vanessa's killers, Deadpool explains that he sees himself as the person most responsible for her death. #Deadpool2
13. Healing, for Deadpool, comes not through violence and retribution, but by finding new people to care about. Chiefly Russell, a troubled mutant whom Deadpool has to save from becoming a killer. #Deadpool2
14. That's in sharp contrast to Cable, who ALSO experiences a refrigeration - his wife and daughter are murdered by a future Russell - and is completely bent on revenge. #Deadpool2
15. Cable is what the hero of a Women in Refrigerators story is supposed to look like. Manly, taciturn, more comfortable with violence than any other approach, and incapable of processing his grief. #Deadpool2
16. And #Deadpool2 explicitly criticizes him for that, and for having such a fantastically powerful tool as a time machine, and using it in the most unimaginative way possible. Instead of doing what Deadpool does, which is try to set Russell on a different path.
17. What's more, Cable seems to take on Deadpool's criticism of him. He not only learns to see Russell as a person, but at the end of the film he sacrifices his trip back to the future to save Deadpool's life. #Deadpool2
18. So, intentionally or not, you can absolutely read #Deadpool2 as a criticism of the Women in Refrigerators trope, and of how pop culture depicts men who experience grief and bereavement.
19. Having said all that, I'm still not sure that it justifies #Deadpool2 killing Vanessa. A movie that criticizes the masculine reaction to a beloved woman's death is a still a movie that kills a woman to jumpstart its plot.
20. And especially since, as we now know, none of this critique was intended by the writers, who genuinely don't seem to see the problem with what they did.
21. An additional point is that in a post-credits scene, #Deadpool2 has Deadpool fix Cable's time machine and use it to save Vanessa. It's played completely for a laugh, as it would have to be since her survival would negate the entire movie.
22. So it's hard to feel that this actually changes anything. The emotional import of the movie all depends on Vanessa dying, even if in future Deadpool movies she's alive. #Deadpool2
23. I should also say that I consider Wade and Vanessa to be one of the best pop culture couples, and that #Deadpool2, like its predecessor, works hard to make the point that they genuinely like each other and get along well. Which is rare.
24. That's true after Vanessa's death as well, which means that she still feels more real than a lot of softly-lit, saintly, dead love interests from other movies. Or live ones, for that matter. #Deadpool2
25. In conclusion, #Deadpool2 does fridging better than most movies and examines it in interesting ways. But I'm still not sure that justifies the choice to fridge.
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