September 23rd, 2020

Arts & Letters

'Deadpool 2' is funniest when it takes on all sides of our dumb ideological fights

Sonny Bunch

By Sonny Bunch

Published May 28,2018

'Deadpool 2' is funniest when it takes on all sides of our dumb ideological fights
As The Washington Post's Alyssa Rosenberg noted earlier this week, for all of "Deadpool 2's" posturing as a satire of the comic book film, it's still a very straightforward entrant in the genre, a reminder that might makes right and sometimes doing good means doing bad things to a whole mess of bad people.

"Deadpool" is far more interesting for the way it tries to have it both ways: a socially aware comedy rife with progressive signifiers that nevertheless feels like it is constantly messing with liberal pieties and fairly reveling in its pseudo-reactionary humor.

"Deadpool 2" revolves around the efforts of the titular assassin (played by Ryan Reynolds) to save a teenage mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison) from being killed by time-traveling mutant Cable (Josh Brolin), who wants to take Russell out as an angry, abused child before he grows up into a mass-murdering adult. To stop Russell, Deadpool forms X-Force, a pleasingly multiracial group whose youth ensures they can carry their own franchise if need be.

The film is littered with jokes in which Deadpool plays the role of Woke White Guy. For instance, Deadpool accuses the villain Black Tom Cassidy (Jack Kesy, who is white) of cultural appropriation - the source of his name in the comics is Cassidy's Black Irish origins.

After Cable kills Cassidy, Deadpool turns around and suggests that Cable is racist for killing off Black Tom. Joking that old white man Cable is a little bit racist becomes a running gag. When the time-sliding soldier asks the group's Indian driver Dopinder (Karan Soni) to turn his music off, Deadpool again tut-tuts him for being bigoted.

Wokepool's chatter continues as the film progresses; the most amusing of these moments comes near the end of the film when he suggests to the diminutive female mutant, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), that she is actually an X-Person, not an X-Man, Ms. Warhead simply rolls her eyes, exasperated at the way he's prattling on.

Indeed, that's how most everyone, especially the minority characters, seems to react to his social-justice shtick; the African-American mutant, Domino (Zazie Beetz), implicitly dismisses Deadpool's slander of Cable when she too says Dopinder's music was incredibly bad.

When combined with the Christopher Plummer joke in the film's early going, one might be tempted to argue that "Deadpool 2" is borderline reactionary in its humor, a two-hour-long takedown of the silliness of the social justice set.

(Early in the film, a ticker during a news broadcast states that Plummer turned down a role in the movie we are watching. Plummer replaced Kevin Spacey in "All The Money in the World" late last year following accusations of assault and harassment leveled against the former "House of Cards" star. The Plummer joke is doubly pointed given T.J. Miller's prominence in "Deadpool 2" and the spate of accusations that have hounded the actor and stand-up comedian over the past few months.)

It's not a right-wing treatise, of course, relying as it does on a stock religious fundamentalist for its lead villain, suggesting as it does that fat-shaming and a lack of representation are driving Russell into a life of murder, and serving up as it does a conspicuously diverse array of characters in a major, big-budget action film. Indeed, it's almost amusing to compare and contrast "Solo," out this weekend, with "Deadpool 2."

On the one hand you have the writers of "Solo" out there screaming to anyone who will listen that Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) is actually totes pansexual you guys and, man, they wish they could've gotten "a more explicitly LGBT character" into the film But Maybe Next Time. On the other, you have "Deadpool 2," in which Negasonic Teenage Warhead introduces the Merc with a Mouth to her girlfriend, Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna), and no one blinks an eye.

"Deadpool 2" wants to have its cake and eat it too before smashing it in your face like a "Three Stooges" pie, earning praise for its diversity and guffaws for its hypermasculine humor while making no one particularly uncomfortable. The Woke Bro - that guy whose caddishness gets a pass because he's familiar with all the right platitudes - is the wave of the future, the Tucker Max of our times.

And if the box office is any indication, that future is bright indeed.

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