The Superhero Industrial Complex has been pushed into full production mode over the last several years, producing piece after piece of forgettable C.G.I.-laden trash. In spite of the seeming supply glut of bad comic book cinema, the demand amongst infantilized adults for still more just never seems to run dry. Thus, Deadpool was born into this world: on the surface merely another attempt by studio execs to cash in on the nerd culture craze. However, beneath the recycled plotline, wooden characters and juvenile dialogue lies the genesis of the next step in the liberal ideological agenda.
There is no need to go over the finer points of the film, which studiously follows comic book adaptation cliches. Suffice to say the movie contains a tedious plotline which could have been cut and pasted from any of the Marvel films of the last decade. There is the hero’s origin story, the boy finds girl, boy loses girl because of his super powers, boy is reunited with girl after saving her from supervillain structure with which we are all quite familiar. The supposedly novel aspect of Deadpool is its attempt to, with an obnoxious amount of self-consciousness, create a new, transgressive hero to root for. This “transgressiveness” mostly takes the form of a constant stream of crassness which is delivered, machinegun-like, by Ryan Reynolds. Thus, the film takes full advantage of its R-rating (a first for the Marvel franchise) to the delight of middle-schoolers the world over. All of this, of course, has been covered, ad nauseum, by newspaper critics and film school bloggers across the web. Deadpool’s true novelty, namely its implicit glorification of a particular take on the concept of “Nu-Maleness,” however, has remained almost unnoticed.
This glorification of Nu-Male degeneracy is where the film sets itself apart from the rest of the pack. Deadpool just doesn’t present us with a foul-mouthed, devil-may-care, anti-hero; a kind of Han Solo in spandex. Its modus operandi is significantly more subversive and original than that (the anti-hero concept itself being quite the played out trope these days). It undermines not the noblesse oblige motivations displayed by the golden age superheroes of yore, which were made archaic long before, most notably in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight; rather its main target is the very intrinsically masculine nature of the virtues long displayed by the fictional heroes of the Marvel universe.
Sexual jokes are rampant throughout Deadpool, and reference almost every form of deviancy imaginable, but these particular attempts at cheap humor go much further than run-of-the-mill locker room vulgarity. As the protagonist is not only the slinger of these crude homoerotic insinuations; but is also literally one himself. Deadpool is the first character in the Marvel universe, who has experienced the light of the cinematic spotlight, to be openly identified as bisexual. To be more specific, Deadpool is “pansexual” which apparently, according to current Deadpool writer Gerry Duggan, means he’s “willing to do anything with a pulse,” which includes, one is forced to assume; farm animals and children. Thus, our protagonist is now freed from the strict confines of oppressive heteronormativity, which until now have been standard for superhero franchises.
In many ways, this move is significantly more clever than would be say giving Deadpool a boyfriend and outing him as an openly homosexual character. Such a move would necessarily alienate the millions of straight, adolescent males the franchise relies upon to turn a profit since they would be unable to relate to an openly homosexual character. But making Deadpool a pansexual allows the studio execs to have their ideology and eat the profits too. Open homosexuality is too associated (rightly) with effeminacy and other qualities which are decidedly anti-masculine. But our fearless, virulent, and chiselled hero’s pansexuality enables him to inhabit these traditionally masculine traits effortlessly while simultaneously propagating and legitimizing numerous sexual pathologies (that are decidedly anti-masculine) to impressionable adolescents across the Western world.
It is here we find the basis of a new ideological project, the legitimization of a retrofitted version of Nu-Maleness which Deadpool’s pansexuality serves as the unsubtle dog whistle for. Nu-Maleness generally has been associated with a passive effeminacy and predilection for causes related to social justice. Deadpool’s ideological genius is in its attempt to combine superficially masculine traits (physical strength, fearlessness, devil-may-care attitude, crassness, etc.) with the sexual deviancy characteristic of the Nu-Male. After all, Deadpool, being a superhero badass and all, isn’t the sort of character who would usually be referred to as a “faggot” or a “cuck” on the schoolyard playground. The clearest manifestation of this tendency in the film is during the excessively long sex scenes in which Deadpool and his lover (a woman) engage in various, frenzied acts of heterosexual fucking. During one of these scenes Deadpool allows his female love interest to penetrate him with a dildo, thus illustrating for our impressionable viewers that one can be both masculinely virulent and have his anus violated by the multiple thrusts of a mechanical penis.
Is there a more ideologically pure feminist sentiment than this one? That ultimately the true sign of a real feminist Nu-Male is that he must submit himself to acts of female sexual domination and humiliation? At its heart, this is the message that Deadpool is pushing upon America’s simple, comic book-obsessed youth. That the only way to be truly masculine is to surrender your masculinity. It is classical Orwellian doublethink, updated for the age of Weimerican spectacle.
Deadpool: the prophet of Nu-Maleness, showing the nation’s children the way to the promised land.